The Supreme Court today agreed to hear on May 17 a plea challenging various notifications of the Centre to make Aadhaar card mandatory for availing benefits of government schemes. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, which is currently hearing a batch of petitions challenging the practice of triple talaq, agreed to the contention of senior advocate Shyam Divan that the Aadhaar matter is very important and needed to be heard on an urgent basis.
“Despite the order of this court that Aadhaar will be voluntary and not mandatory, the government has been coming out with a series of notifications making it mandatory to avail benefits of schemes like scholarships, Right to Food and mid-day meal in schools,” Divan, appearing for Shanta Sinha, former chairperson of National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), one of the petitioners in the Aadhaar matter, said. He said let a two-judge bench hear the applications against making Aadhaar mandatory for various schemes.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, vehemently contested the submission saying even interim orders in Aadhaar matter have been passed by a five-judge bench and hence it would not be appropriate to list the plea before a two-judge bench. The Solicitor General also said that the petitioner has not informed the court that after passing of various orders by the Supreme Court making Aadhaar voluntary, the central government has come out with a new legislation.
Several petitions, challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar are pending in the apex court and would be heard by a five-judge constitution bench, which is yet to be set up by the CJI. 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. The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens fro extending benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and Public Distribution System etc.