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The Supreme Court, as an interim measure today, directed that the possession of an Aadhaar card shall not be a requirement for availing any governmental benefit or service. The direction was issued by the Court in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former Karnataka High Court Judge Justice KS Puttaswamy [Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India & Ors., WP (c) 494/2012] challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme.
The matter was heard by a Division Bench comprising of Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde. The Court after hearing the parties also directed that no illegal migrants should be issued an Aadhaar card.
The petitioner, Justice (Retd) Puttaswamy has sought the quashing of the Aadhaar scheme on the ground that it violates the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution in as much as it required the individuals obtaining an Aadhaar number to part with personal information, such as biometrics, iris scans and fingerprints. Justice Puttaswamy has also submitted that there are no safeguards or penalties and no legislative backing for obtaining personal information, and the proposed legislation introduced by the Government had been rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
He has further contended that the Aadhaar scheme was linked to various governmental services and benefits like food security under the newly enacted Food Security Act, LPG subsidy, Employees’ Provident Fund, and other DBT benefits. Hence, he argues that an Aadhaar card is mandatory to avail these benefits, contrary to the government’s claim that it is a voluntary scheme. He has also alleged that unchecked allotment of Aadhaar numbers to all residents, including illegal migrants, was jeopardising national security and that scheme was introduced to gain political mileage.
Senior Counsel Anil Divan appeared for the petitioner and was assisted by Advocate Ankit Goel. Divan submitted that Aadhaar card has been made mandatory for registration of marriages in Jharkhand, for teaching and non-teaching staff to draw salaries in Maharashtra and for availing various government scholarships. He, therefore, sought for interim directions to safeguard the rights of the citizens. Appearing for the Central government, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran and Additional Solicitor General L Nageswar Rao opposed any interim relief arguing that Aadhaar was purely a voluntary scheme.
The Court, however, issued interim directions to the effect that Aadhaar card shall not be mandatory till the matter is decided and no Aadhaar should be issued to illegal migrants. It agreed to hear all the issues involved and posted the matter for final hearing for a non miscellaneous day. Since both Justice Chauhan and Justice Bobde are part of the Constitution Bench hearing a criminal writ petition, the case will be heard only after the conclusion of the Constitution Bench matter.
Earlier, the Delhi High Court had also issued notice to the Central Government, Government of Delhi and the Unique Identification Authority of India in a petition filed by NGO Beghar Foundation seeking quashing of the Aadhaar scheme on similar grounds.
Full text of the order is given below.