Aadhaar can be linked to schemes by December 31
The Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that the deadline for linking Aadhaar to access various social welfare schemes and benefits had been extended from September 30 to December 31.
December 31 is also the deadline announced by the government for linking bank accounts with Aadhaar.
Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal conveyed to a Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, about the decision during an urgent mentioning in the Supreme Court by petitioners, who challenged both the validity of Aadhaar and the law passed subsequently in 2016.
The petitioners, represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair, wanted an early hearing as the last date given for beneficiaries to link their Aadhaar cards was September 30.
The petitioners, including Magsaysay award winner Shanta Sinha, have challenged the validity of more than 17 government notifications which insist on Aadhaar to access welfare programmes like midday meals and disability pension. The notifications issued by various Central ministries under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act of 2016 require beneficiaries to link their Aadhaar cards.
On hearing Mr. Venugopal’s submission, a Bench, led by the Chief Justice of India, posted the petitions for the first week of November.
Mr. Divan drew the court’s attention to the concluding paragraph in Justice Rohinton Nariman’s separate judgment on the ninejudge Bench which had, last week, declared privacy a fundamental right. This paragraph directed the Aadhaar petitions to be posted for hearing before the “original” three-judge Bench.
The “original” Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar had referred the petitions before a five-judge Bench, which found it necessary to decide whether privacy was a fundamental right or not. It referred the legal question to the nine-judge Bench, which came out with the historic judgment in favour of the common man’s fundamental right to privacy against state intrusions.
The privacy verdict has a crucial bearing on the Aadhaar petitions, which have argued that use of biometric details such as fingerprints and iris scans violate bodily and informational privacy.
The petitioners argue that mandatory requirement of Aadhaar for these schemes “constrict rights and freedoms which a citizen has long been enjoying unless and until they part with their personal biometric information to the government.”
The petitions termed the Aadhaar Act unconstitutional and contrary to the concept of limited and accountable government. “Collection of biometric data including fingerprints and storing it in a central repository puts the state in an extremely dominant position in relation to the individual citizen,” they said.