Aad­haar can be linked to schemes by De­cem­ber 31

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Kr­ish­nadas Ra­jagopal

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.

‘Un­con­sti­tu­tional Act’

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.

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