The Centre today told the Supreme Court that around 95.10 per cent of the entire population has voluntarily registered for Aadhaar and apprehension of "large-scale exclusion" of citizens from government benefits due to lack of unique number was "misplaced" and "unfounded".
The government, while opposing any stay on implementation of the Aadhaar scheme, said that around 115.15 crore people have already enrolled for Aadhaar card, which is a citizen's right to identity, and there was no need for considering any interim stay on the scheme.
"Moreover, the Aadhaar Act, 2016 is a legislation of socio-economic reform and this court has held that courts must show judicial restraint in dealing with such legislations," the government said in its counter affidavit filed in response to several petitions opposing the scheme.
It quoted a World Bank 2016 report, which says if Aadhaar was applied to all social programmes and welfare distribution, it would save the government USD 11 billion annually.
"The Aadhaar number issued to the residents under the Aadhaar Act, 2016 enforces the right to identity and is instrumental in fulfilment of several fundamental rights of the teeming masses in this country flowing from Article 21 viz. the right to food, the right to livelihood etc," the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said in its affidavit filed in the apex court.
It said, "The uniqueness of Aadhaar helps in elimination of duplicates and fakes from any beneficiary database leading to immense savings through reduction of leakages and wastages."
The affidavit said Aadhaar card is the most widely held form of identity document with the citizens. While 115.15 crore people have Aadhaar card, only 15.17 crore people have ration cards, 29 crore have PAN cards, 6.9 crore are passport holders and 17.37 crore have driving licence.
The Centre said that in 2014-16, the government's savings through Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme on account of Aadhaar was Rs 49,560 crore.
It said with almost the entire population having been covered by Aadhaar, the petitioners' apprehensions of so called "large-scale exclusion" of the people from government subsidies or benefits due to lack of Aadhaar card was misplaced, self-contradictory and unfounded.
It said though the notification requires people to enrol for Aadhaar by June 30, those who are unable to get themselves enrolled due to lack of facilities, can give their contact details and would be registered later.
"The notifications thus ensure that no genuine person is denied of any benefits because of lack of Aadhaar. Therefore, petitioners' contentions of urgency in this matter is incorrect and unfounded," it said.
The UIDAI also said when Aadhaar has been adopted by several statutes and authorities in pursuant to directions by the apex court and as per the legislative amendments by Parliament, the court ought not to entertain the applications seeking interim stay of notifications passed in pursuance to the Aadhaar Act 2016, as it would stall and interfere with the governance.
The Centre opposed the petitions, saying they were misconceived and lacked representative character and sought dismissal of the pleas filed by Shanta Sinha, ex-chairperson of National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and others alleging that many have been excluded from Aadhaar.