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How can homeless get Aadhaar, asks Supreme Court

How can homeless get Aadhaar, asks Supreme Court

New Delhi: Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre on its insistence on Aadhaar card from homeless persons across the country who slept in night shelter homes during the current winter.

A bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta how the Centre would issue the Aadhaar card for lakhs of homeless persons in the country when the Aadhaar authority asks for a permanent address.

The matter came up during the hearing on the lack of night shelters for homeless people. The court had previously summoned the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary to explain the lack of night shelters, especially with North India in the grip of a cold wave.

The court also wondered how, such persons could be given any national identity at all when they do not have any individual proof of residence.

Justice Lokur asked the ASG, “A person who is homeless, how will he have an Aadhaar card? So far as the Union of the India is concerned these homeless persons do not exist?”

The Bench asked if a permanent address was mandatory for Aadhaar enrolment and consequent welfare services. The Uttar Pradesh government replied in the affirmative.

“So, how do homeless people get Aadhaar if they have no home or a permanent address,” Justice Lokur shot back.

Mr Mehta said since Aadhaar card enrolment was not the issue before the present bench he would prefer not to address the query. The bench then asked advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner for his views on the issue. The counsel said the government claims to have issued 90 crore Aadhaar cards, but certainly has not bothered to give the homeless any such identity.

The bench agreed with Bhushan’s suggestion and said not only Aadhaar cards, but the homeless do not have even other national identity like voter ID cards. The bench also expressed dismay at the progress of the construction of night shelters across the country despite a number of earlier directions by the court.

As per the 2011 census there are 1.77 million homeless people in the country who make up 0.15% of the total population.

Mr. Mehta reasoned that the urban homeless were mostly migrants from the rural parts of the country, and they would have a permanent address in their native villages and would have or could apply for, Aadhaar there.

The ASG said he would get further instructions from the UIDAI on this aspect. The court criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for its poor implementation of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) scheme which had existed since 2014.

“We are talking about human beings who have no place to stay. Those who have no place to stay have to be given a place to live,” Justice Lokur observed orally.

Mr. Mehta said the State was alive to the situation and was doing its best to provide shelter to the urban homeless. He referred to the vision document prepared by the Uttar Pradesh government to deal with the issue of urban homeless, and said that as per 2011 census, there were around 1.80 lakh urban homeless in the State.

The court later directed that all states and UTs in the country shall have three member coordination committees each headed by the principal secretary, urban development to monitor the construction and maintenance of the night shelters.

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