Justice DY Chandrachud, one of the five judges who is part of the Constitution bench hearing petitions that have challenged the government’s Aadhaar programme in the Supreme Court, on Thursday lost his cool with counsel Shyam Divan, who is representing the petitioners, PTI reported. Divan had questioned the credibility of a report the government had cited in its affidavit.
The government document cited a World Bank report that said India saves an estimated $11 billion (Rs 70,399 crore) annually because of Aadhaar. In the last hearing, Justice Chandrachud had quoted from the report, NDTV reported. “The positive aspect of Aadhaar is that for the first time there is a citizen-centric delivery of services,” he had said.
However, Divan contended that the report could not be relied upon as World Bank’s Chief Economist Paul Romer had recently resigned saying there was no integrity in its data. The government, he argued, had inflated the figures of the number of false claims on social benefits that it had been able to stop.
“We are neither defending the government nor are we going to follow the NGO line,” an irate Justice Chandrachud said. “Since the beginning, I am hearing this that if I am not with you, then I am an Aadhaar judge. I do not care...I am not answerable to anybody. I am committed to the Constitution.” The judge said he did not mind “being called a capitalist or ideologically committed”.
When Divan said he had never called Justice Chandrachud an “Aadhaar Judge”, he said: “No you called me an Aadhaar judge.” The exchange between the two ended with Divan apologising.