It is incorrect to say that Rs 70,000 crores had been saved due to the ceding of Aadhaar, says Divan.
New Delhi: Even as senior counsel Shyam Divan maintained in the Supreme Court that the Centre has attempted to inflate the figures on savings due to ceding of Aadhar by eliminating fraud in beneficiary lists of social security benefits, heated exchanges sparked up the debate on Thursday.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Kanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is hearing arguments in the Aadhaar case for the seventh day. During the last hearing on Tuesday, Justice Chandrachud quoted the report of World Bank lauding the Aadhaar programme as it had resulted in savings and elimination of bogus claims of beneficiaries.
Today Mr Divan disputed the figures of World Bank and even as he raised his voice to drive home his point, Justice Chandrachud took exception to his submissions and said, “I don’t care if I am branded as an Aadhaar judge. You (counsel) are repeatedly giving an impression that I am an Aadhaar judge and 25 years down the line people who read the judgment will call me Aadhaar judge.”
Expressing his anguish over the implied insinuation, Justice Chandrachud said, “I don’t mind being called a capitalist or ideologically committed. I am not a liberal judge, but I am a nationalist and committed to justice and the Constitution. It does’ not mean that we should accept all your arguments. If we don’t accept your argument, then we are branded as Aadhaar judge. As a lawyer myself for over 20 years, I can say I am neither an Aadhaar judge nor an NGO lawyer.”
When Mr Divan tried to persuade the judge that he never called Justice Chandrachud “an Aadhaar judge”, Justice Chandrachud retorted “no you called me an Aadhaar judge”. Mr Divan said if he had created such an impression “I express my regret.”
On World Bank lauding the scheme due to savings, Mr Divan said, “It is incorrect to say that Rs 70,000 crores had been saved due to the ceding of Aadhaar. What World Bank has said is not savings but total disbursements made.”
Continuing his tirade against Aadhaar programme, he said the Centre has attempted to inflate the figure to argue an impossibility of exclusion as the figures amount to puffery. He refuted the Centre’s figures that Rs 49,650 crore had been saved in two years through transfer of benefits under the direct benefit transfer scheme on account of Aadhaar. Whether it is under MGNREGA, or gas subsidy or elimination of bogus job cards, the government has completely inflated the figures.