The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay the government’s notifications making it mandatory to have an Aadhaar to avail of some welfare schemes. The Centre had also made it compulsory to link one’s Aadhaar to their Permanent Account Number by June 30 this year.
The top court has listed the next hearing in the matter for June 27, just three days before the deadline. The government, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, said there was “no question” of extending the deadline either. The bench, Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha, said it would hear all petitions against making Aadhaar compulsory for various schemes to avoid multiplicity.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan argued that even amid several hearings connected with Aadhaar, the Centre had issued notifications making the biometric identification system mandatory for some schemes. “The five-judge bench order says the entire process has to be voluntary. One expects that the State will respect the order of this court. The bench had said that no person can be deprived of these schemes for want of Aadhaar,” PTI quoted him as saying. The bench, however, asked him why a second petition was filed if earlier pleas seeking relief were also made.
Rohatgi said that Aadhaar was being made compulsory so that benefits of schemes do not “go to ghosts”. “Leaks were happening in some schemes,” he said. He also affirmed that Aadhaar data would not be leaked to anyone.
The Supreme Court has been hearing a series of petitions regarding Aadhaar and the government making it compulsory to have such identification to avail of some schemes, including midday meals in some instances.
On April 21, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax returns despite its repeated orders that the unique identification programme cannot be made compulsory. In March, the court had asserted that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for welfare schemes – as established in previous interim orders. This was after the bench had reminded the Centre in August 2015 that use of Aadhaar must be voluntary.