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Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of Aadhaar with modifications

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Supreme Court on Aadhaar

New Delhi, Sep 26: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar with modifications. 

The Apex court ruled that the Aadhaar card is not needed for school admissions,  opening bank accounts and mobile phone connections. While made mandatory for linking with PAN card.

Justice AK Sikri had authored the judgement on behalf of him, CJI and Justice Khanwilkar. Justice Chandrachud and Justice A Bhushan have written their individual opinions.

While reading out the verdict on constitutional validity of Aadhaar, Justice Sikri said “There is a fundamental difference between Aadhaar card and identity. Once the bio-metric information is stored, it remains in the system”.

“It is better to be unique than to be best”, he added.

Justice Sikri further said, “Aadhaar empowers the marginalised section of the society and gives them an identity, Aadhaar is also different from other ID proofs as it can’t be duplicated”.

Meanwhile, in a  minority verdict, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that passing the Aadhaar law as money bill was a fraud on the Constitution because it was not a money bill.

He also observed there was a risk of surveillance of people on the basis of data collected under the scheme and that the data could be misused.

The judges who gave the majority ruling were A.M. Khanwilkar, Ashok Bhushan, Misra and Sikri who approved the passage of Aadhaar law as money bill.

“We are of the view that there are sufficient safeguard to protect data collected under Aadhaar scheme,” the judgement asserted.

Earlier, the apex court had reserved the verdict in May after a marathon hearing, which lasted for 38 days spread across four months.

The Court heard around 27 petitions against Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law.

Former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, social activist Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Nachiket Udupa and others had challenged the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.

Key Points: 

Nothing in Aadhaar Act which violates the right to privacy of citizens

The court said that as of today “we do not find anything in Aadhaar Act which violates right to privacy of individual citizen”.

Supreme Court strikes down the section 57 of Aadhaar Act

The apex court struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act which allows private companies to demand the unique identity document for the verification purposes.

No need to link Aadhaar With Bank Accounts and Mobile Numbers, but compulsory for PAN 

The top court asserted that No mobile company can demand “Aadhaar card”.

Aadhaar card is mandatory for PAN linking, said the Supreme Court.

No Aadhaar for school admissions and UGC, NEET & CBSE examinations

The bench of CJI Dipak Misra stated: “Aadhaar need not be made compulsory for school admissions.”

“Education has taken us from thumb impression to signature, now technology has taken us from signature to thumb impression”, the bench said.

Besides this, the apex court ruled “Aadhaar is not mandatory for UGC, NEET and CBSE examinations. Biometric data shall not be shared with any agency without the permission of the court”.

Introduce strong data protection law: Justice Sikri to Centre 

Justice Sikri asked the central government Centre to “introduce a strong data protection law as soon as possible”.

The Supreme Court said, “minimal demographic & biometric data of citizens are collected by the UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment. Aadhaar number given to a person is unique & can’t go to any other person”

Reading out the Judgement Justice Sikri said that Aadhaar empowers the marginalised section of the society and gives them an identity, Aadhaar is also different from other ID proofs as it can’t be duplicated”.

No person will be denied government schemes due to a failure of authentication through Aadhaar

“No person will be denied benefits under social welfare scheme because of failure of authentication through Aadhaar,” the court said.

Government needs to ensure that illegal migrants do not get Aadhaar card

“We direct the government to ensure that illegal migrants are not issued Aadhaar to get benefits of social welfare schemes”, the judgement asserted.

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Analysis

Dealings of European missile manufacture under scanner

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Rafale Fighter Jet

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) A leading European arms manufacturer MBDA, which supplies missiles for the Rafale jets, has come under the scanner of probe agencies here for its suspected links with lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who was extradited from Dubai last month.

The country head of MBDA, Loic Piedevache, has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to appear before it on Monday in connection with the probe relating to the company’s links to Talwar, who is believed to have steered several deals with Airbus, which holds a stake in MBDA, during the UPA regime, according to sources.

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro had entered into a joint venture with MBDA to supply missiles and missile systems to the Indian armed forces.

L&T holds 51 per cent stake in the joint venture, L&T MBDA Missile Systems, and had identified defence as one of the key drivers for achieving growth in the sector.

The sources claimed that apart from questions on the company’s engagement with the Indian forces, Piedevache would also be questioned on the alleged payments to Talwar’s NGO. Advantage India, to the tune of Rs 88 crore between 2012 and 2015, from MBDA and Airbus.

Later, the entire money was said to have been withdrawn in cash by using “fake purchases”, the sources said.

Analysts said this was probably a rare occasion when the India head of a leading international firm was being summoned by a probe agency.

Piedevache has been heading the company’s operations in India for a decade. The Mirage upgrade programme and Rafale were signed during Piedevache’s tenure in India and he could be privy to information, the sources said.

“If required, the probe agency may also summon group export director Jean-Luc Lamothe. First of all, Piedevache would be asked to explain the company’s payments to Talwar’s NGO,” the sources said.

Piedevache could not be reached for his comments. An MBDA spokesperson said the company would support the authorities in their probe. It maintained that it had supported social development initiatives in India as part of corporate social responsibility, which included some payments to the NGO.

The company is involved in the Rs 30,000 crore offset programme associated with the 36 war planes.

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15 lakh salaried employees with PF a/c’s stuck with toxic IL&FS bonds

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EPFO

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) A new threat looms large for the government in an election year. A spanking new but restive community of salaried employees is concerned about its money deposited with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

At the cutting edge of the ever burgeoning IL&FS crisis, these employees are exposed to toxic investments. Most of these Employee Provident Funds and Employee Pension Funds have stated that the IL&FS resolution plan must provide repayment before secured creditors as the resolution framework proposed by the company doesn’t provide for any payment to secured creditors.

A sense of panic has crept in. They have collectively invested thousands of crores of rupees in IL&FS bonds. Many say that the resolution framework must balance interest of all stakeholders. Others have also challenged Sec 53 of the payment schedule distribution process as it doesn’t address public and social interest. Since these are tradeable instruments, the exact quantum is not known, but investment bankers estimate it to be in thousands of crores since the infrastructure company’s bonds – which were ‘AAA’ rated – were preferred by retirement funds that have a low-risk appetite but still have to get assured returns even when interest rates are low.

The growing discontent is across some of the blue chip Indian corporates. Some of these that have filed an intervening petition with the tribunal, thereby impleading themselves in this gargantuan case on how to run a corporate into the ground, include Apco Infratech, Apco, Titan, Asian Paints PF, Asian Paints Management Cadre Superannuation scheme, Aditya Birla Sun Life MF, Thomas Cook PF, Titan Watches, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), M & M PF, Himami, Bajaj Finance, Hindalco EPF, Max Financial Services PF Trust, IDBI Trusteeship Services Ltd, IndusInd Bank, Hudco Employees CPF, MMTC CPF, 63 Moons, Nayara Energy EPF, Indian Oil Corp, ITPO, CIDCO, SBI PF, GUVNL PF, Ambuja Cement, HDFC AMC, IREDA among others.

The size, scope and magnitude of these companies is self explanatory – HUL, Asian Paints, Hindalco and M & M from the private sector, IOC, SBI and MMTC from the PSU sphere and HDFC AMC and Aditya Birla Sun Life from the mutual fund industry, virtually imperilling India Inc and most importantly dragging the financial savings of lakhs of salaried employees.

The employee provident funds of various companies and other entities had invested in IL&FS bonds and bond holders are unsecured and may or may not get paid in the ongoing crisis at IL&FS. In any case, they are seen pretty much last on the priority list. Over 75 companies and their PFs have filed an intervening petition before the appellate court to seek directions and instructions on repayment to unsecured creditors.

As many as 15 lakh salaried employees across different sectors are caught in this ticking time bomb and the number is only likely to go up as the true extent of the malaise is known and understood. Till September last year, Indian rating agencies, not realising that IL&FS was set to implode, were giving Triple A rating to the bonds. With elections around the corner, this new expose will further polarise debate. After all it is salaried employees who are now staking claim to their hard-earned monies.

In fact, in the intervening petition filed by IndusInd Bank, they have categorically asserted that the top five creditors of IL&FS were not consulted in the resolution plan. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, senior counsel, with Diwakar Maheshwari, Avishkar Singhvi and Shreyas Edupuganti appeared for IndusInd Bank. Similarly, Abhishek Anand and Anant Pavgi appeared for Federal Bank while Vikram Hegde appeared for IREDA and Priya Puri appeared for Indian Oil Corp.

Abhishek Singhvi, Arun Kathpalia, Abhinav Vashisht, Amrendra Saran, Rajiv Datta appeared on behalf of the intevener (financial creditors or operational creditors or other secured creditors). The NCLAT order of February 11 allowed the intervening applications filed by them. Furthermore, other intervenors and parties who intend to file impleadment application were allowed before the next date – which is March 12, 4 p.m.

BOX Section 53 of IBSC

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law enacted by Parliament or any State Legislature for the time being in force, the proceeds from the sale of the liquidation assets shall be distributed in the following order of priority and within such period and in such manner as may be specified, namely:

(a) the insolvency resolution process costs and the liquidation costs paid in full;

(b) the following debts which shall rank equally between and among the following:

(i) workmen’s dues for the period of 24 months preceding the liquidation commencement date; and

(ii) debts owed to a secured creditor in the event such secured creditor has relinquished security in the manner set out in section 52;

(c) wages and any unpaid dues owed to employees other than workmen for the period of 12 months preceding the liquidation commencement date;

(d) financial debts owed to unsecured creditors;

(e) the following dues shall rank equally between and among the following:

(i) any amount due to the Central Government and the State Government including the amount to be received on account of the Consolidated Fund of India and the Consolidated Fund of a State, if any, in respect of the whole or any part of the period of two years preceding the liquidation commencement date;

(ii) debts owed to a secured creditor for any amount unpaid following the enforcement of security interest;

(f) any remaining debts and dues;

(g) preference shareholders, if any; and

(h) equity shareholders or partners, as the case may be.

(2) Any contractual arrangements between recipients under sub-section (1) with equal ranking, if disrupting the order of priority under that sub-section shall be disregarded by the liquidator.

(3) The fees payable to the liquidator shall be deducted proportionately from the proceeds payable to each class of recipients under sub-section (1), and the proceeds to the relevant recipient shall be distributed after such deduction.

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Jobless growth turning into job-loss growth: Manmohan Singh

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Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Pointing to domestic challenges like agrarian crisis, declining employment opportunities and prevalence of divisive forces, former prime minister Manmohan Singh here on Sunday painted a grim picture of the Indian economy and said the jobless growth was fast turning into the “jobloss growth”.

Addressing a convocation at the Delhi School of Management, Singh blamed the “slipshod” implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) for damaging the vibrant small and unorganised sector.

“The domestic challenges of our economy are daunting in their complexity and devastating in their impact on society. The grave agrarian crisis, the declining employment opportunities, the pervasive environmental degradation and above all the divisive forces at work are obvious,” he said.

The renowned economist said farmers’ suicide and frequent agitations reflected the “structural imbalances in our economy” and called for a serious in-depth analysis and political will to address them.

“Knee-jerk reactions and off the cuff announcements of grandiose schemes and unproductive projects have failed to lift the economy to its potential,” he said.

Without naming the Narendra Modi government, he said the country’s jobless growth was fast slipping into ‘job-loss growth’ and together with rural indebtedness and urban chaos was making youth restless.

“The attempts to create additional jobs in the industrial sector have failed as industrial growth is not picking up fast enough.

“The small and unorganised sectors, which were vibrant and contributing to generation of wealth and employment opportunities, have suffered in the wake of disastrous demonetisation and slipshod introduction and implementation of the GST,” said Singh, a vehement critic of the cash cull launched by Prime Minister Modi on November 8, 2016.

The former Prime Minister advocated well thought out policies and implementation strategies to stimulate industrial and commercial sectors.

Observing that macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation were the pre-requisites for any semblance of inclusive growth, he stressed the need to incentivise and involve corporates and other business enterprises and institutions in discharging their social responsibility of building India.

“Needless to stress, it is a testing time for our democratic spirit, our patience and tolerance, our capacity of managing contradictions, our resolve of ensuring inclusive growth — a strong, equitable and sustainable growth,” Singh said.

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