The Supreme Court on Friday posted for hearing on October 8 an application filed by the Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, (MOPNG), seeking modification of the interim order that restrained the government from making Aadhaar card mandatory for transfer of social welfare benefits to beneficiaries.
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran made a ‘mention’ before a Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi for urgent listing of the application. The court directed it to be listed for hearing on October 8 before the appropriate Bench.
In its order on September 23, a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde said: “In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant.”
The application said: “The above order has the effect of staying the Direct Benefit Transfer for Liquefied Petroleum Gas Consumers [DBTL] scheme, which has been launched by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas on June 1 and is currently in operation in 54 districts as it mandatorily requires the beneficiary to possess a Unique Identification for receiving subsidy.”
The Centre clarified that retail consumers would not require the Aadhaar card to purchase LPG cylinders from the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) at market prices. Only those who were seeking subsidy on supply of market price cylinders (up to nine cylinders per annum) were required to mandatorily obtain an Aadhaar card and produce the same to avail of the subsidy.
“The DBTL scheme has been launched to ensure that the LPG consumers’ entitlement is not diverted and to prevent leakage in the LPG subsidy, which amounted to Rs. 3,95,58,00,00,000 in 2012-13 . Given the gap in the market price and the subsidised price of LPG, there is a strong incentive to direct the cylinders for commercial purposes in a manner that is not permissible otherwise, defeating the purpose of the policy and causing loss to the exchequer.
“The DBTL scheme, by use of Aadhaar number, which provides a unique identification of every individual, has put into place a robust mechanism to ensure that bogus/duplicate connections are detected and sale happens at market prices while genuine consumers can avail of subsidy in their bank accounts. This will prevent unscrupulous elements from diverting the public resources for illegal purposes and consequently reduce the subsidy burden. So far, over one crore [1,00,00,000] subsidy transfer transactions have been done to over 4.5 million LPG consumers amounting to Rs. 471.39 crore.
“Keeping in mind the objectives for which the DBTL scheme has been launched and implemented and the absolute necessity of the Aadhaar card to ensure its successful implementation the Court should modify its order to state that while no one might be denied domestic LPG cylinders at market rates in the absence of Aadhaar cards, the card might be allowed to be mandatorily sought by the MOPNG to make subsidy payments to those entitled to the same under the DBTL scheme in order to eliminate the diversion of subsidised cylinders into black market.”