New Delhi: As government is expanding the ambit of Aadhaar by compulsory linking it with various social welfare schemes, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a plea to restrain the centre from making Aadhaar mandatory till its constitutional validity is decided.
A five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, before whom the matter was mentioned, posted the case for May 17.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioner, brought to court’s notice that a series of notification had been issued by Center for mandatory linking of Aadhasr with various schemes in violation of apex court’s earlier order which had held the Aadhaar should be voluntary.
The apex court had earlier reserved its verdict on constitutional validity of a law making it mandatory for citizens to link their PAN card with Aadhaar
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had reserved its order on validity of Section 139AA of Income Tax Act which provides for compulsory quoting of Aadhaar for filing of income tax returns and for making application for allotment of PAN number from July 1 this year.
Justifying the law, Centre had termed Aadhaar as the most effective and fool-proof tool to check the cases of tax evasion and to keep a tabs on circulation of black money in the country, some members of civil society challenged the provision saying that it was a “draconian” law which would take away people’s right of privacy and make them virtually subservient to the mighty government which would keep an eye over them for rest of their life through digital surveillance.
The government had taken a stand that Aadhaar was mandatory under Aadhaar Act and there was nothing wrong in compulsory linking it with other scheme and said that the law passed by Parliament could not questioned by court. The Centre had earlier assured the apex court that Aadhaar would not be mandatory till its constitutional validity was decided by the court but the Parliament passed the law for its compulsory linking with PAN card.
The Centre had contended that Parliament cannot be restrained from framing law and the court could not strike it down merely on the ground that it was in violation of its interim order. Countering Centre’s arguments, senior advocate Arvind Datar had told the bench that SC order was binding on the Parliament and the law should be quashed.
The first UID number was issued on 29 September 2010 to a resident of Nandurbar, Maharashtra and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has so far enrolled 113 crore of population.
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. The court, however, made it clear that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for availing benefits of the scheme.
The larger issue on constitutional validity of Aadhaar is pending in the apex court since 2013 and the issue would be decided by a constitution bench.