SC order on interim relief on mandatory linking of Aadhaar on Friday

Gladys Abbott
December 15, 2017

On a previous date of hearing the government had said that it was ready to extend the deadline to link Aadhaar with essential services to March 31.

The government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was willing to extend the deadline for linking mobile numbers with Aadhaar to March 31, 2018, in line with many other services for which the deadline has already been extended.

Venugopal referred to an earlier apex court order asking the Centre to ensure verification of existing and new mobile users by February 6 and hence, the government, on its own, can not extend the deadline.

The government had made quoting of the 12-digit biometric identifier Aadhaar mandatory for old and new bank accounts as well as for any financial transaction of Rs 50,000 and above. Several petitioners, challenging the validity of Aadhaar, had claimed that the Centre's order violated privacy rights. A Constitution bench of five judges-Chief Justice, Dipak Misra, justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan-was constituted on 13 December after repeated attempts by the petitioners for an early hearing on the issue of mandatory Aadhaar linking.

The apex court had time and again made it clear that no person shall be deprived of any benefit, which otherwise accrue to him, for want of Aadhaar, but these orders have been violated with impunity by the Centre which has come out with as many as 139 notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for nearly everything, he said. Leading the battle against Aadhaar, senior advocate Shyam Divan argued that a new law - to give statutory backing to the unique identity scheme - would not overrule the court's earlier orders that Aadhaar can be used only on a voluntary, consensual basis. "It is against the rule of law and sanctity of judicial orders", Mr. Subramanium argued.

When Mr. Divan handed over news reports showing suffering among the non-Aadhaar holding marginalised people due to lack of access to welfare benefits, Chief Justice Misra said the court is not compelled to look into "newspaper reports and website writings".

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Subramanium and other lawyers also said that the Aadhaar legislation can not take away the basis of the apex court orders that the scheme was voluntary.

The Centre on Wednesday extended the deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts to March 31.

Recently, a nine-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution.

"The (Aadhaar) data is being passed on to Pakistan", senior advocate Anand Grover said but did not elaborate.

Article 144 of the Constitution mandates the government to act in furtherance of Supreme Court orders, not against it, Mr. Datar said. But the AG, the Unique Identification Authority of India and the Reserve Bank of India contested all these views.

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