The Centre on Wednesday assured the Supreme Court that the use of Aadhaar card would be on voluntary basis only and would not be mandatory at all for getting benefits under other social welfare schemes.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi gave the assurance after a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu observed that if Aadhaar can be allowed to be used voluntarily for PDS and LPG, why not for other schemes on a similar condition.
Rohatgi told the court there is no reason why the unique identification number cannot be used for other government schemes when the court has allowed it for PDS and LPG distribution on voluntary basis. “Distribution of pension by central and state governments for retired army officers, widows, disabled persons are also as important as essential food and fuel distribution,” he said.
On a query by the Constitution bench that if person not possessing the Aadhaar card would not be in a disadvantageous position in accessing benefits under social welfare schemes, Rohatgi said, “as of now the answer to question is yes and if court wants an affidavit of the highest functionary of the government it will be available by 10.30 AM tomorrow.”
“The notion of privacy is surveillance, peeping into one’s life and not using your information to provide better services, is what I perceive. There is no absolute right to privacy,” the AG reiterated, adding that “we have advertised in 20 languages that Aadhaar is not mandatory.”
At the beginning of the hearing, the court had indicated that challenge to the constitutional validity of the Aadhar card in the context of whether privacy was a right may be examined by a larger nine or eleven judges bench, but said that bench may consider applications including one by the Centre seeking the relaxation of August 11 order restricting the user of Aadhaar card for procuring food-grains or kerosene oil or for the distribution of LPG.
Opposing any relaxation of August 11 order, senior counsel Shyan Divan told the court that it (apex court) had by its 2013 order directed that usage of Aadhaar card was voluntary and could not be insisted upon. “There is no gain saying (for the Centre) to say that possession and use of Aadhaar was voluntary” and not mandatory.