A public interest litigation (PIL) petition has been filed in the Madras High Court challenging a Government Order issued by the Energy department on October 6 permitting Tamil Nadu generation and distribution corporation (Tangedco) to use Aadhaar authentication services as a condition for receipt of subsidies, benefits and services for which the expenditure is incurred from the consolidated fund of the State.
When the matter was listed for admission before Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy on Wednesday, the judges simply adjourned the hearing to Thursday at the request of petitioner’s counsel T. Sivagnanasambandan. Advocate M.L. Ravi of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi (DMSK) had filed the PIL with an interim prayer to restrain Tangedco from insisting upon Aadhaar authentication.
The petitioner pointed out that the State government’s Information Technology department had issued a Government Order on September 23, 2021 directing all government departments to immediately identify schemes / services which require seeding of Aadhaar in their respective database. It was pointed out that Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act of 2016 mandates such authentication.
Subsequent to the GO, the Tangedco chairman had on December 20, 2021 proposed the use of Aadhaar authentication services as a condition precedent. The government accepted the proposal on October 6 this year and ordered publication of a notification under Section 7 of the 2016 Act. The notification stated that all individuals desirous of availing subsidies and other benefits from Tangedco must undergo Aadhaar authentication.
Those who were desirous of availing the benefits but do not possess Aadhaar number were required to apply for Aadhaar and submit the enrolment identity slip or a copy of the request for enrolment with the Tangedco officials in order to continue to enjoy the benefits till Aadhaar number gets assigned to them. Alternatively, power consumers were also permitted to submit either bank passbook, voter ID, ration card, PAN, passport or driving licence until Aadhaar enrolment.
However, the petitioner complained that the permission granted for submission of alternative documents was not publicised at all and that Tangedco continued to insist on Aadhaar from the domestic electricity consumers. Stating that it was common practice to rent out different portions of a building to multiple families on rent, the litigant said, a great amount of confusion prevailed now not knowing whether the owner or the tenant should carry out Aadhaar authentication.
He also stated that Non Resident Indians who owned properties in the State were not in possession of Aadhaar card and therefore, there was difficulty on that account too.