The Supreme Court will on May 17 hear a batch of petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to make furnishing of Aadhaar number mandatory to get the benefits of several government schemes, PTI reported on Friday. The five-judge vacation bench of the court, which is currently hearing petitions challenging triple talaq, agreed to an urgent hearing in the case.
Senior advocate Shyam Diwan, appearing for former chairperson of the National Commission For Protection of Child Rights Shanta Sinha, informed the apex court that the government had been issuing several notifications on Aadhaar despite the court stating that it can only be voluntary, not mandatory.
“Despite the order of this court that Aadhaar will be voluntary and not mandatory, the government has been coming out with a series of notifications making it mandatory to avail benefits of schemes like scholarships, Right to Food and mid-day meal in schools,” Diwan said. He had also requested an urgent hearing in the case by a two-judge bench.
Diwan was strongly contested by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar who said a five-judge bench, and not a two-judge bench, should be given the task of arbitrating on Aadhaar. The Supreme Court had earlier said that it would set up a five-judge bench to hear the petitions pending before it on the Unique Identification Number project but is yet to do so.
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.