Thursday, 29 June, 2017

Mandatory Aadhaar: SC to hear all petitions on June 27

The court passed its order while recording strong objection by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. He said the matter should be heard by a Constitution bench only as the previous orders were passed by the five-judge bench in October 2015 Mandatory Aadhaar: SC to hear all petitions on June 27
Kenny Thornton | 20 May, 2017, 04:56

The Attorney General noted that the government was insisting on Aadhaar number for availing the benefits under various social welfare schemes to eliminate ghosts beneficiaries as had happened in the case of public distribution scheme and other schemes.

The court, after hearing both sides, said that it was hard for constitution bench to assemble during vacation.

"This is like an ambush which is going on here".

The petition, filed by Magsaysay award victor Shanta Sinha, argued that mandatory requirement of Aadhaar for these schemes "constrict rights and freedoms which a citizen has always been enjoying unless and until they part with their personal biometric information to the government".

Referring to the five-judge bench order, Divan said it was specifically said that "Aadhaar is voluntary and it can not be made compulsory and they can not coerce people to give their biometrics".

The court was hearing a petition filed by Magsaysay award victor Shantha Sinha and feminist activist Kalyani Menon Sen. "The bench had said that no person can be deprived of these schemes for want of Aadhaar", he said.

Divan also argued that the "architecture" of Aadhaar is that of a "surveillance state".

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However, the bench asked "why this second petition when you have already filed a plea earlier seeking similar reliefs".

Countering the submissions, Rohatgi said, "there was no injuction against Parliament".

"Parliament passed the law and parliament can't be injuncted", he added.

The Attorney General said that a total of 115 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued till date and "the idea behind all these benefits was that it should not go to ghosts". "Leaks were happening in some schemes", he said. He said these include notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for hot cooked meals, several scholarships for disabled students, etc.

The bench was referring to the fresh petition filed by him when there were pending pleas in the apex court relating to the Aadhaar matter and seeking identical reliefs.

Senior advocate Shyam Diwan, appearing for two civil rights activists, said that Centre was breaching the apex court's earlier order which had held that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory and pleaded for an urgent hearing during summer recess of the Supreme Court as Centre's notification to link Aadhaar with around 17 schemes would come in force from June 30. The apex court had earlier on October 15, 2015 permitted the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards for welfare schemes like MGNREGA, all pension schemes, the provident fund and the "Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna" in addition to LPG and PDS schemes.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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