The Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was ready to issue Aadhaar cards to sex workers without insisting on proof of residence or identity, Live Law reported.
The UIDAI said that sex workers can instead provide a certificate from a gazetted officer of the state health department or from an official associated with the National AIDS Control Organisation, or NACO.
The recommendation was made in a petition made before the bench of L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai.
The court has been hearing a plea about problems faced by sex workers due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On September 29, the court had asked the Centre and others to provide dry ration to them without insisting on their identity proof.
“The state government, UTs shall continue to give dry ration without insisting on proof of identity,” the bench said. It has given states three weeks to submit reports.
The bench said that it was crucial that the personal information of sex workers remains confidential, according to The Hindu.
Advocate Zoheb Hossain, who was representing UIDAI, said that it was an obligation to ensure that access to basic things like food does not get hampered over the issue of Aadhaar cards.
Hossain further submitted that authorities are obligated to keep personal information confidential and that application forms for Aadhaar cards do not have any column to mention the profession, Live Law reported.
During the hearing, the court also directed all states and Union Territories to continue with the process of identifying sex workers who do not have any identity proof and are deprived of ration, PTI reported. “Apart from ration cards, the states shall also take steps to issue voter cards to sex workers identified by NACO and community based organising after verification.”
On December 15, the court had said that all citizens are guaranteed their fundamental rights irrespective of their profession.
The bench noted that the Supreme Court had in 2011 directed states and Union Territories to issue ration cards and identity cards to sex workers. “...There is no reason as to why such directions are not implemented till now,” the court said.
The Supreme Court added that state administrations can take the help of the National AIDS Control Organisation and state AIDS control societies to facilitate the benefits for sex workers. The court said that these organisations could prepare a list of sex workers after verifying information given to them by community-based organisations.