The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, based on the amendments in the Ordinance President Ram Nath Kovind had promulgated on March 2. The amendments are in line with a Supreme Court judgement on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar last year.

The Centre said the bill will be introduced in Parliament during the Monsoon Session, which begins on June 17. Last year, the Supreme Court had struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which had made the use of Aadhaar mandatory for availing various services.

“The decision is expected to go a long way in meeting the people friendly and citizen centric nature of Aadhaar,” the government press release said. “The decision would enable UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India] to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.”

“Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament,” it added.

In April, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a plea challenging the Aadhaar ordinance. The top court asked the petitioners to first approach a High Court with its plea.

The Lok Sabha had passed a bill for the purpose on January 4, but the Rajya Sabha had not voted on it before the last session of the 16th Lok Sabha ended.

Triple talaq bill

The Cabinet on Wednesday also approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, replacing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance, 2019, a press release said.

The bill proposes to declare the practice of triple talaq as void and illegal. It also prescribes a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment for an offence, and provides for subsistence allowance to married Muslim women and their children.

“The bill would ensure gender equality and gender justice to Muslim women,” the press release said. “The bill would also help in protecting the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ by their husbands. The bill will be introduced in the forthcoming session of the Parliament.”

The second Ordinance was approved by Kovind on February 21 after which it came into force for the third time in less than a year. The government had failed to pass the bill, known as the triple talaq bill, in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget session of Parliament in February.

The Centre had first promulgated the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance in September 2018. A bill to replace it was passed in the Lok Sabha in December, but remained pending in the Rajya Sabha. The government promulgated the Ordinance again after the Winter Session of Parliament, but could not pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget session. The Ordinance lapsed on June 3.

The Opposition has demanded that the bill be sent to a select joint parliamentary committee before being passed into law. The government, however, has rejected this demand. The Congress claimed that the government was using the bill as a tool to imprison Muslim men and to create an atmosphere of confrontation between Muslim men and women.

In March, the Supreme Court dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the re-promulgation of the Ordinance.