The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will hear a batch of petitions challenging various aspects of Aadhaar in the first week of November.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will hear a batch of petitions challenging various aspects of Aadhaar in the first week of November.While senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing various petitioners, sought early hearing on the issue, the Centre told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that it will extend the deadline for mandatory Aadhaar to avail social welfare benefits to December 31 from the earlier September 30. Attorney-general KK Venugopal made this statement in view of last week’s historic decision by the nine-judge Constitution bench on August 24 that declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
Venugopal also urged the Supreme Court to set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear Aadhaar-related issues. A total of 22 cases have been tagged by the apex court to be heard by a smaller bench on Aadhaar. They challenge several aspects of the Aadhaar scheme, including the mandatory parting of biometric details like iris scans and fingerprints, thus alleging violation of the citizens’ right to privacy. Among these challenges are those involving the use and sharing of data collected under the programme, making Aadhaar mandatory for social welfare benefits, infringement of the right to privacy, and making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and for obtaining and retaining a permanent account number, or PAN.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes, but had allowed the government to use unique ID for a large number of purposes like welfare schemes and income-tax return filing, with a rider that it will not be made mandatory. On June 9, the apex court had upheld the validity of a recently-inserted Income Tax Act provision, making Aadhaar mandatory to apply for PAN cards and file tax returns. On March 27, the SC had made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory by the government for extending benefits of social welfare schemes, but can be enforced for “non-benefit” purposes like filing of I-T returns and opening of accounts.
The Supreme Court five-judge Constitution bench had on October 15, 2015 extended the use of the Aadhaar card on a voluntary basis to avail other government schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, employee provident fund and pension schemes. The social welfare schemes, aimed at reaching the doorsteps of the “poorest of the poor”, were in addition to the other two schemes — public distribution system and LPG schemes — allowed earlier by the apex court in its August 11, 2015 interim order.
In the 2013 order, another bench of the apex court had directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory”.