The Aadhaar is Constitutionally valid, held the Supreme Court on Wednesday. However, the highest court also held that Aadhaar will no longer be mandatory for getting new mobile connections, opening bank accounts, getting admission to schools, and to appear for University Grants Commission (UGC), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) exams.
The apex court ruled that Aadhaar will remain essential for linkage with Permanent account number (PAN) and for filing Income tax returns (ITR). It has struck down certain sections of Aadhaar Act like Sections 33(2), 47 and 57.
As India was looking to the highest court of the land, as the court delivered its verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, whether it infringes upon a citizen’s right to privacy and if the government can make linking the biometric identity mandatory for citizens to receive the benefits of government services, there was a visible sense of anxiety over the outcomes and the way ahead.
The debate on the validity of Aadhaar has existed ever since its inception in the governance of the country. Issues ranging from privacy, social security, reach to the poor etc. have been the issues debated in this biometric-based identification system. The roll-out of the ambitious programme was done by the previous UPA government, however, its systemic implementation is being witnessed now and with the passage of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the government has given it a statutory backing.
However, its implementation in various schemes is under question and the matter is pending with the Supreme Court and the apex court will decide its fate today. The journey of Aadhaar in the top court is considerably long with its hearing touted as second longest if the number of days it was heard is considered.
2006: Ministry of IT-approved the Unique ID.
December 2006: Empowered group of ministers constituted
2007: First meeting of Ministers and the need to create a resident database was felt.
2009: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was created. Nandan Nilekani appointed as the chairman.
2011: Number of Aadhaar holders crosses 100 million.
2012: Former HC judge Justice KS Puttaswamy files petition contending that Aadhaar violates fundamental Right of privacy and equality.
2013: Supreme Court passes order saying no person should suffer for not having an Aadhaar number.
2014: Aadhaar reaches 510 million people in the country.
2014: SC forbids UIDAI from sharing information in the database with any other agency.
2014: Aadhaar reach 720 million people.
2015: Three-judge bench hearing the matter that the SC should first decide on the question of whether privacy is a fundamental right.
2016: Aadhaar bill was introduced as a money bill in Lok Lok Sabha.
2017: Several Ministries make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes like pension and employment. Introduced Section 139AA to Income-Tax Act, making Aadhaar mandatory for PAN applications, filing returns.
2017: SC upholds I-T Act Section 139AA; however, for those without Aadhaar card holders, PAN cards not to be treated as invalid for time being.
2017: It was settled in the nine-judge Constitution bench, headed by former CJI JS Khehar, which ruled privacy as a fundamental right.
2018: In January, five-judge Bench begins hearing Aadhaar case. In May, SC reserved its decision.
September 26, 2018- Aadhaar Constitutionally valid. However, Court exempted several services.
Aadhaar verdict: Why the battle in court?
Various petitions challenging the linking of Aadhaar to government schemes argue that it violates the top court’s order that it should be voluntary, and leave it to the court to decide and refrain government from Aadhaar linking till the hearings conclude.
On the government’s part, it says that Aadhaar has helped to plug leaks in the PDS system and to curb duplication. The government also asserted that it does not violate the fundamental right and the database is foolproof and secure.