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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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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Also Read: British Parliament Access Internal Facebook Data Scandal Papers: Report

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)