August,11,20015: Supreme Court refers the issue if Aadhaar scheme is an intrusion into privacy to a Constitution Bench, asks Centre to widely publicise that Aadhaar card is not mandatory.
In an interim order till a Constitution Bench decides on the issue, a three-member Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Aadhaar should not be used for availing government welfare schemes other than PDS, food grain distribution, cooking fuel/LPG or for criminal investigation on a court’s direction.
However, the Court made it clear that even for availing these facilities Aadhaar card will not be mandatory.
The court, in the interim order, said the Central government should ensure wide publicity through print and electronic media that Aadhaar card was not mandatory.
No personal information of Aadhaar cardholders should be shared by the authorities concerned, it said.
Earlier in the day, the court referred to a Constitution Bench a batch of petitions to declare the Aadhaar scheme an intrusion into privacy.
Allowing the Centre’s plea, the three-judge Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, and C. Nagappan framed various questions, including as to whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right, to be decided by the Constitution Bench.
The Constitution Bench will also decide the larger question of whether collecting biometric data for preparing Aadhaar cards infringed an individual’s privacy.
“No personal information of Aadhaar card shall be shared by any authority,” the three-judge Bench said and took on record Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi’s averment to this effect.
“UIDAI/Aadhar will not be used for any other purposes except PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution system,” the Bench headed by Justice Chelameswar said, but made it clear that even for availing these facilities Aadhaar card will not be mandatory.
The Bench directed that the information received by UIDAI shall not be used for any other purposes, except in criminal investigation and that too with the permission of the court.
It, however, did not allow the interim pleas of the petitioners, who have challenged the Aadhaar scheme, to stop the process of ongoing enrolment.
The petitioners have claimed that collection and sharing of biometric information, as required under the scheme, is a breach of the “fundamental” right to privacy.
Allowing the Centre’s plea, the court framed various questions, including as to whether right to privacy is a fundamental right, to be decided by a Constitution Bench.
“If yes, then what would be contours of the right to privacy,” the bench said while referring the matter to Chief Justice H.L. Dattu for setting up the larger Bench.
At an earlier hearing, Mr. Rohatgi, while backing the Aadhaar card scheme, had contended that right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
“No judgment explicitly cites right to privacy as a fundamental right. It is not there under the letters of Article 21 either. If this court feels that there must be clarity on this subject, only a Constitution Bench can decide,” he had said.
He had cited two judgments, pronounced by six and eight-judge Benches, which had held that right to privacy is not a fundamental right.
Subsequently, smaller Benches had held a contrary view and, hence the matter needed to be decided by a larger bench, he had said.
“Whether right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India, in the light of express ratio to the contrary by an eight-judge Bench in M.P. Sharma case and also by a six-judge Bench of this court in Kharak Singh’s case has to be decided,” Mr. Rohtagi had said.
Referring to pronouncements made in A.K. Gopalan, Maneka Gandhi and bank nationalisation cases, the top law officer had said that inconsistencies with regard to interpretation of certain fundamental rights can only be “squared up” by a larger Bench.
The Centre had opposed a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against it, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and others for allegedly insisting on Aadhaar cards to grant benefits of various schemes to citizens, saying it was not mandatory.
In pursuance of earlier orders, the government has conveyed to the States and authorities concerned not to make Aadhaar cards mandatory for availing benefits of various schemes, Additional Solicitor-General Pinky Anand had told the court.
The Bench was hearing a batch of pleas against decisions of some States to make Aadhar cards compulsory for a range of activities including payment of salary, provident fund disbursement, marriage and property registration.
The government had also said those having Aadhaar cards were being asked to provide it to authorities but it was optional.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Mathew Thomas, one of the PIL petitioners, had filed an application seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre and others, including the RBI, and the Election Commission.
He had alleged that the government and others were in violation of earlier orders that had said that no person should be denied any benefit or suffer for not having Aadhaar cards.Hindu
What is Aadhaar ?
Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UDAI), which functions under the Planning Commission of India, is responsible for managing Aadhaar numbers and Aadhaar identification cards.
The Aadhaar project was initiated as an attempt towards having a single, unique identification document or number that would capture all the details, including demographic and biometric information, of every resident Indian individual. Currently there are a plethora of identity documents in India including passports, permanent account numbers (PANs), driving licenses and ration cards.
The Aadhaar card / UID will not replace these identification documents but can be used as the sole identification proof when applying for other things. It will also serve as the basis for Know Your Customer (KYC) norms used by banks, financial institutions, telecom firms and other businesses that maintain customer profiles. Aadhaar numbers will eventually serve as the basis for a database with which disadvantaged Indian residents can access services that have been denied to them due to lack of identification documents.
A resident Indian can apply for the Aadhaar number and card by submitting the existing proof of identity (passport, PAN card, driving license, etc.) and proof of address (phone/ power bill, bank statements, etc.) and by undergoing biometric profiling (fingerprints and iris scan) at any Aadhaar center.
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