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Why are states still insisting on Aadhaar card, asks SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took exception to the fact that despite its ruling that governments should not insist on the possession of Aadhaar card for the disbursal of benefits under the social welfare schemes, there were states that were flouting its order.

A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice S.A.Bobde, and Justice C. Nagappan expressed its concern over states acting in breach of its interim order passed in September 2013 and reiterated in March this year in this regard.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Chelameswar pointed to the court’s earlier order asking the central and state governments and their agencies not to link the disbursal of benefits under various social welfare schemes with Aadhaar card.

“Notwithstanding the earlier interim order, some of the states are still insisting on Aadhaar card,” he observed, citing certain reports in the newspapers.

At this, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said: “As far as we are concerned, we had made it clear not to insist on Aadhaar card for any official work.” He said he would get back to the court after checking with the authorities.

In its September 23, 2013 order, the court said: “No person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card inspite 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 court’s concern over the breach of its interim order came as it commenced hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar card and describing government insistence on possessing it as being “coercive” and violating the right to privacy.

Meanwhile, the central government on Tuesday told the court that it was difficult to roll back the scheme which was integral to government’s efforts to eradicate poverty as it sought the hearing of challenge to the Aadhaar scheme by a constitution bench of five judges.

Rohatgi told the court that about Rs.5,000 crore have been spent on the unique identification scheme and the social welfare programs and subsidy schemes are linked to Aadhaar card.

Telling the court that about 80 crore people in the country have been covered under the Aadhaar program, he said that any scrapping of the scheme would adversely affect the government efforts to eradicate poverty.

The position found support of the senior counsel K.K.Venugopal – who appearing for Centre for Civil Society – referred to several judgments backing the plea for referring challenge to Aadhaar scheme to the constitution bench.

The court asked Rohatgi to look into the judgments being referred to by Venugopal and address the court on Wednesday morning on the plea to refer the matter to the constitution bench.

The court is hearing a batch of petitions including one by Karnataka High Court’s Justice (Retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy who had moved the court in 2012, contending that the entire Aadhaar scheme was unconstitutional as the biometric data collected under it was an incursion and transgression of individual privacy.

(IANS)

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The Rafale Deal: Corporate Rivalry Impacting National Interest

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie's dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on 'India's strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal'.Pixabay

A recent European Union intelligence sharing exercise with India has revealed that Lockheed Martin, the US-headquartered company which manufactures the F-16 fighter jets, has been up to mischief mongering on the Rafale issue.

The Rafale jets, which India wants, is manufactured by the French aerospace company Dassault Aviation, a rival of Lockheed Martin.

That Lockheed Martin could be working in the shadows to sour the Rafale deal for India so that it could move in with its own deal was validated when Vivek Lall, Lockheed Martin’s high-profile head of strategy and India operations, said that the company was in the process of finalising the sale of 200 fighters to India.

During the UPA regime, the government had signed an MoU for 126 Rafale fighter jets to replenish a major shortcoming in air defence preparedness because the Indian Air Force did not have quality fighter jets. When the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, this deal was revised and an inter-government deal was struck to receive 36 fully-loaded Rafale jets. The controversy now raging in India is related to the pricing for the fighters negotiated by the NDA.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’. Pixabay

In December when the Rafale case came before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that processes were generally followed over the procurement. He also noted that the controversy had been triggered by comments by former French President Francois Hollande over the selection of the offset partner and that mere comments could not form the basis for a probe.

However, this has not prevented the Rafale purchase controversy from becoming a high-octane political battle between the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Repeatedly over the past few months and more stridently now in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has led a no-holds barred attack on the government and the Prime Minister specifically on the issue. From the earlier public disinterest on the controversy, it is now now getting some traction — the Congress party believes this could be possible because it has relentlessly raised the matter at all public forums.

Bringing up the case of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was said to be part of the orhestrated plan to present the case of the American companies while also appearing nationalistic. In the government’s estimate, HAL’s record is abysmal and it cannot be given a big responsibility like building fighter jets — more so in the light of the safety record of MiG fighters purchased from Russia and made under licence from HAL.

The BJP-led government at the Centre believes — and it is certain it has evidence of this — that the Congress party is doing this as it has become a party to corporate rivalry between the US and French aerospace companies. For the record, Lockheed Martin is believed to have found a sympathetic ally in another US aerospace major, Boeing, which manufactures the F-18. Dassault has another rival in French manufacturer Airbus Industrie, which is associated with BAE for the manufacture of the Eurofighter. It is also angling for a fighter jet contract with India.

Rahul Gandhi’s attacks on the government over the Rafale issue started after his visit to the US in August 2017 when he met several defence lobbyists, CEOs of US defence companies and Pentagon officials.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’.

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Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Pixabay

The government’s efforts to trace the footprints of the dramatis personae at the forefront of the campaign to target the government over the Rafale deal has produced surprising results. It has found what it believes are eye-opening linkages between Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — who filed a PIL in the Supreme Court accusing the Prime Minister of corruption in the deal — and arms dealers and defence manufacturers. At least in one case, the linkages show deep connections between members of Shourie’s family with aerospace companies, arms dealers and defence lobbies.

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie’s dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

Also Read: The Craft of Distilling Is Ancient, Different Story Behind Every Bottle

The government is also aware of the links between a top BJP leader’s son-in-law and a French manufacturer. The son-in-law is said to be advising Rahul Gandhi and is believed to be making government documents available to him for the campaign against Rafale.

Lockheed Martin’s alleged actions to work the political ecosystem to pull down the Rafale procurement deal also has a larger strategic context. Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  (IANS)