Government claims of saving in PDS, LPG by Aadhaar linking inflated, SC told
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday was told that the government’s claims of saving by plugging leakage by linking disbursal of rations under the Public Distribution System and LPG with Aadhaar was “incorrect and inflated” as there was no study to back such a claim.
Telling the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that there was not a single study to demonstrate that “identity fraud” is a large proportion of corruption in the implementation of welfare system, senior counsel K.V.Viswanathan said claims of savings were “incorrect and inflated”.
Asserting that there was evidence that “quantity fraud is pervasive”, he told the bench also comprising Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan that the government claim of saving, inter alia of Rs 14,000 crore in the PDS system, “due to the detection of 2.33 crore ration cards is incorrect, inflated and based on wrong assumption…”
Appearing for social activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Nachiket Udupa, Vishwanathan said that the government does not have the estimates of the leakage in PDS and also no study has been carried out to ascertain if POS machines were effective in removing irregularities.
Telling the constitution bench that government was conflating the issue of “bogus/ineligible ration cards” with identity fraud, he said that “a large number of these 2.33 crore cards were deleted even before Aadhaar-integration and seeding came into effect”.
Referring to the figures of decline in the leakage in PDS system even before it was linked to Aadhaar, Viswanathan held that “the state has failed to demonstrate that increased savings and better targeting are of an order of magnitude that justifies” the serious infringement of fundamental right to privacy of the citizens.
Assailing the report of the UIDAI on the saving through Direct Benefit Transfer to the user of LPG which claims to have saved Rs 14,672 core in 2014-2015, Rs 6,912 crore in 2015-2016 and Rs 4,9824 crore in 2016-2017, he said that the report of the committee of secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary had said that the “de-duplication of beneficiaries using Aadhaar was able to identify only 9 lakh duplicate connections, and the total saving in the annual subsidy was only Rs 91 crore”.
The court was told this in the course of the hearing of a batch of petitions by former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.
Viswanathan will continue his arguments on Thursday.