Breaking:Third time lucky? SC lists Aadhaar case for hearing on interim relief on May 17
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Breaking:Third time lucky? SC lists Aadhaar case for hearing on interim relief on May 17

Murali Krishnan

The odds were against Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, who was mentioning the Aadhaar matter before Chief Justice JS Khehar for the third time.

However, the Court relented this time around, and agreed to hear the petitioners in the Aadhaar case on interim prayers. The matter will be heard on May 17 by a Division Bench.

This would be the third time such a request is being made before the CJI. Divan had earlier made similar requests on January 5 and March 27.

The Central government has been coming out with one notification after another, allegedly in violation of the orders passed by the Supreme Court. The August 11, 2015 order states that obtaining Aadhaar shall not be mandatory. It states:

“The Union of India shall give wide publicity in the electronic and print media including radio and television networks that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card.

The production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen.”

The order also clarifies that Aadhaar can be “used” by the Centre for PDS and LPG distribution schemes. This interim order of August 11 was subsequently modified by another order passed on October 15. By this, the Court extended the permission to use Aadhaar for MNREGA, Employees Provident Fund, National Social Assistance Programme and Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana.

However, both the orders, though giving permission to the Centre to use Aadhaar for the exempted schemes, do not talk about permission to make it mandatory. In fact, both the orders spell out that Aadhaar is a voluntary scheme which cannot be made mandatory until the matter is finally decided by the Supreme Court.

On January 3 and January 4 this year, the Centre issued two notifications making Aadhaar number compulsory for MNREGA and EPS.

Immediately after the two notifications were issued, the matter was mentioned on January 5 before Chief Justice Khehar by one of the petitioners through Senior Advocate Divan. Though Divan sought an early hearing in the matter, the court brushed aside the same and declined this request for the time being.

Fresh from the confidence of the apex court’s non-interference, the Centre acted again. This time, it made it mandatory to have Aadhaar to file Income Tax Returns and to apply for a PAN Number.

This prompted another mentioning by Divan on March 27, which was also turned down. Subsequently, three petitioners filed a separate petition challenge the constitutionality of S. 139 AA of Income Tax Act which makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax Returns. This was heard by a Division Bench, since the privacy issue was not raised and the challenge was limited to the particular provision and not Aadhaar in general. The Court reserved it’s verdict in that matter.

Subsequently, two other petitioners moved Supreme Court challenging the notifications which made Aadhaar mandatory for mid days meals, etc. A Division Bench had issued notice in that matter on May 9 and allowed the petitioners to request for urgent hearing before the CJI.

Today’s mentioning was made pursuant to that order. Divan, besides pouring out the earlier orders of the Court, also brought to the notice of the Court the order of May 9 which had noted the urgency in the case.

The Bench then said that it will list the matter for interim relief before a Division Bench. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the central government, opposed the same, saying that the matter can be heard only by a five-judge Bench, since the earlier interim orders were passed by Division Bench.

The Court, however, turned down the same.

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