Supreme Court to hear plea on keeping Aadhaar card for subsidy

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New Delhi, Oct 4: The Supreme Court will next week hear a plea by the petroleum and natural gas ministry seeking modification of its Sep 23 order so that Aadhaar card continues to be mandatory for the direct transfer of subsidy on cooking gas cylinders to domestic consumers.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would hear the ministry's plea Oct 8 after Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran mentioned the matter Friday morning.

The court had Sep 23 ruled that Aadhaar card was not mandatory as a proof of identity for getting the government benefits under several welfare schemes, including the National Food Security Act.

The apex court by its order had said that "no person should suffer for not getting the Adhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory".

The court's order had came in the course of the hearing of a PIL by Justice (retd.) K Puttaswamy seeking direction to restrain the government, the Planning Commission and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) from issuing Aadhaar cards in the wake of a Jan 1, 2009 decision of the government.

The petroleum secretary in an application Friday told the court that its Sep 23 order amounted to clamp down on the Direct Benefit Transfer for Liquefied Petroleum Gas Consumers (DBTL) scheme as it mandatorily requires the beneficiary to possess a Unique Identification for receiving subsidy

The direct subsidy scheme was launched June 1, 2013 and covers 54 districts in the country.

The petroleum secretary in his application said that under the scheme, the Aadhaar number is merely required to be produced to the cooking gas distributor and the consumers' bank so that the subsidy could be transferred directly into the bank account of the consumer.

The DBTL scheme was launched to ensure that the cooking gas consumers' entitlement was not diverted and to prevent leakage in the subsidy. The subsidy amounted to Rs.39,558 crore during 2012-13, the ministry told the apex court.

The ministry, in its application, said the subsidy per cylinder works out to be slightly more than Rs.555 and given the gap in the marker price and the subsidised price, there was a strong temptation and allurement to divert the domestic cooking gas for commercial purposes. Such a scenario not only defeats the propose of the policy but also causes loss to exchequer.

The average market price of domestic cooking gas cylinder is Rs.943.36 and the retail selling price is Rs.410.50, therefore the quantum of subsidy per cylinder works out to be Rs.555.55, the application said.

Urging the court to modify its Sep 23 order so that the ministry could mandatorily insist on Aadhar card for making subsidy payments to those entitled under the DBTL scheme, the application said that it would help in eliminating the diversion of subsidized cylinders into the black market.

IANS

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