New Delhi: New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday today slammed various provisions of the Aadhaar bill, singling out the ones like making the Aadhaar card mandatory as an identity proof besides voicing concern that national security
could be made a ground for sharing of an individual's details.
The House saw an animated discussion when the Aadhaar Bill, passed by Lok Sabha, was moved for consideration and return, with Opposition questioning in unison why it has been been brought has a 'Money Bill' (which deals with issues like taxation).
At this, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said since the decision to declare it as 'Money Bill' had been taken by Lok Sabha Speaker, he could not do anything but ensure that it is returned to the Lower House (after passage).
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh supported the Aadhaar Bill which is aimed at giving statutory backing to the unique identity number scheme, but proposed amendments including a "fundamental departure" against the provision making its use mandatory rather than voluntary.
The former minister argued that every individual should have the freedom to opt out of Aadhaar and said the present Bill does not give that space.
Informing that he himself does not have an Aadhaar card, Ramesh said a situation may arise when it may be needed even to book a flight or get a phone number.
He also opposed another provision in the Bill which he termed as "broad" and "amorphous" and could become the ground for misuse of the law as it gives "sweeping powers" on the grounds of national security.
He suggested that rather than national security, the terms "public emergency" or "public safety" could be used. He suggested that an independent member like the CVC should be included in the panel that decides which information regarding a person can be shared.
Ramesh said any suo motu powers, "even to collect information" should not be given to the Aadhaar authority, for instance it could even direct collection of DNA.
He said there were concerns of privacy and the amendments moved by him were in line with the recommendation suggested by a Commission headed by Justice (retd) AP Shah, which had been set by the Planning Commission to examine the matter.
While Ramesh suggested these amandments, he also expressed "anguish" that the Bill had been brought as a Money Bill, an act he likened to "knocking a nail in the coffin of the Upper House".
Earlier while moving the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other subsidies, benefits and services) Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the present bill was different from the one brought by the UPA government as it has further tightened the privacy provisions with regard to
sharing of information of individuals collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
The Leader of the House said privacy laws are tightened to an extent that the data of individuals would be shared only on the ground of national security.
Amid continued interruption, Jaitley took a dig at Ramesh for objecting to the bill which was originally conceived by the UPA government.
"I think the stand of Jairam depends on where he sits. When he is on this (ruling) side, his stand is different and when is on that (opposition) side, his stand is different," Jaitley quipped.
Ramesh countered by saying that his stand on important legislations be it GST, Aadhaar or Land aquisition has been consistent and he did not need a certificate on his intellectual intergrity. He said on all this "Jaitley and his party had changed."
The finance minister and the Congress leader also clashed over whether or not the Aadhaar bill was 'Money Bill'.
Ramesh said that Jaitley, in his attempt to justify the decision to treat Aadhaar bill as 'Money Bill', had "misled" the House by claiming that in the past two Bills, one on Juvenile Justice and another on African Development Bank, had been brought as Money Bills.
"Where was this information manufactured," he asked.
Jaitley then told the House that his source was Lok Sabha website itself.
"You can accuse me of being misled by the website," Jaitley said, while contending that the information was still available on the website and he had taken a printout just few minutes back.
Ramesh said the information on Lok Sabha website was "wrong".
Jaitley said it was Ramesh who had "misled" the House by giving a "half-truth".
The Congress leader, on the other hand, emphasised that Jaitley should have checked the facts.
As the argument continued, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said that if the source of the finance minister's information was the Lok Sabha website, it cannot be termed as misleading of the House.
Speaking about the Aadhaar bill, Ramesh said it was because of "small mercies" that a debate had taken place over it.
The Congress leader said the major use of Aadhaar should be that it could be used to improve the way subsidy is distributed to curb leakages, but it should not determine who is eligible for for subsidy.
Ramesh said while much has been made out by the finance minister about Rs 14,000 crore savings in the distribution of LPG subsidies because of Aadhaar based DBT, the findings of a London-based think tank suggest otherwise.
He said while the present Bill is better in some respects than the one brought by UPA in 2010, it is silent on other aspects. He said he had overall nine objections to the Bill, a number for which Jaitley had shown much fascination in the budget.
He said that during the UPA regime, there was scepticism over Aadhaar even among the National Advisory Council (NAC) but his party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had remained firm.
Ramesh said while the government had provided the opposition with "fait accompli", it should have rather been sent to a Select Committee headed by a BJP member like Anil Madhav Dave or Bhupendra Yadav and better bill could have been come up with.
Speaking after Ramesh, BJP member Chandan Mitra said the Congress leader had on one occasion mentioned that criticism of Aadhaar could get anyone labelled as 'anti-national', which reflected the paranoia of the opposition.
Naresh Agarwal (SP) said the government's action of bringing the Bill as a Money Bill raised suspicions. He too suggested that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee.
Opposing making of Aadhaar mandatory, he said questions could be raised about citizenship of several people.
KG Tyagi of JD(U) raised questions about the safety of data saying it could reach CIA or Mossad. He also referred to the Nazi regime in Germany and said it had introduced cards to identify Jews.