A five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Wednesday declared Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid, but imposed certain conditions. The bench said that Aadhaar is meant to help benefits reach the marginalised sections of the society and takes into account the dignity of people not only from personal but also from community point of view. The top court said Aadhaar is a serving much bigger public interest. It said that Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best.
Reading out the judgement, which was also the majority view in the bench, to petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the scheme, Justice A K Sikri dismissed the attack on Aadhaar by petitioners who contended that the scheme would lead to violation of rights under the Constitution, and result into India becoming a surveillance state. He said there has been minimal demographic and biometric data collected by UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment. Justice Sikri said unique identification proof also empowers and gives identity to marginalised sections of society. He also observed that Aadhaar rules out the possibility of duplication.
However, the Supreme Court also made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for getting admissions to school or appearing for NEET, UGC and CBSE exams. “Education has taken us from thumb impression to signature, now technology has taken us from signature to thumb impression,” it said.
The court also said that users don’t have to link their Aadhaar card to mobile numbers or bank accounts. However, it will still be mandatory to link Aadhaar card with PAN card and for filing Income-Tax returns.
Following the Aadhaar verdict, here are the things that are mandatory to be linked with Aadhaar:
1. PAN card – The 12-digit unique identification number has to be linked with PAN card. The Supreme Court said Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best.
2. I-T returns – The apex court said that Aadhaar will continue to be mandatory for filing Income Tax returns.
3. Government subsidies – Services falling under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act which deals with welfare measures of the government will require Aadhaar card. In essence, Aadhaar will have to be linked to avail the benefits of various government schemes.
Here is the list of things that are not compulsory to be linked with Aadhaar:
1. CBSE, UGC, NEET – The court said that Aadhaar won’t be mandatory for the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.
2. School admissions – Supreme Court said no child shall be denied education or any benefit for want of Aadhaar. It added that schools can’t insist on Aadhaar.
3. Bank accounts: – The Supreme Court has done away with the need to provide Aadhaar for opening a new bank account. Bank customers don’t need to link their Aadhaar cards with bank accounts anymore.
4. Mobile numbers – There is no need to link your Aadhaar with your mobile number. The Supreme Court categorically ruled that Aadhaar will no longer be required to get new SIM cards or mobile connections.
5. Private companies – Justice Sikri struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act permitting private entities to avail Aadhaar data and ruled that Aadhaar authentication data cannot be stored for more than six months.
The bench also struck down the national security exception under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act. It said Aadhaar is meant to help the benefits reach the marginalised sections of society and takes into account the dignity of people not only from personal but also community point of view.
It has also directed the government not to give Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.
The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law. The bench had on May 10 reserved the verdict on the matter after a marathon hearing that went on for 38 days, spanning four and a half months.