SC seeks govt assurance that Aadhaar will be `voluntary'

15 October 2015

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought an assurance from the union government that nobody would be deprived of any benefits or put at a ''disadvantageous'' position for want of Aadhaar.

The apex court observed this while taking note of the centre's plea that Aadhaar cards be allowed to be used ''voluntarily'' for welfare programmes other than PDS and LPG schemes.

''Do you (Centre) make it a precedent for giving benefits of schemes? Do you say that a person will not be put to a disadvantageous position because of lack of Aadhaar?'' a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi when he pitched strongly for voluntary use of Aadhaar to provide benefits of various welfare schemes to ''the poorest of poor''.

''The answer to the question (whether Aadhaar would be voluntary) is - Yes. If the court wants, the affidavit of the highest functionary will be available by 10.30 am tomorrow,'' the Attorney General said and reiterated time and again during the two-hour-long hearing that nobody will be deprived of any benefits for either want of Aadhaar or for not using it.

The bench, also comprising Justices MY Eqbal, C Nagappan, Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, continues to hear the matter as the advancing of arguments on pleas of the centre, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, TRAI, the Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and states like Gujarat and Jharkhand for modification of the 11 August order remained inconclusive.

The court also observed that though it is often said that Aadhaar is not mandatory, but at times, some authorities do ''insist'' on it.

A three-judge Bench had on 11 August referred a batch of petitions challenging Aadhaar cards scheme to a larger bench for an authoritative view on the question as to whether the right to privacy is fundamental right or not and had also restricted the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG scheme only.

Rohatgi, initiating arguments, referred to the facts about the Aadhaar, the background of the cases, their reference to the CJI for setting up of larger bench and the reasons for interim pleas of the centre and its bodies for modification of the order for voluntary use of the Aadhaar cards in other welfare schemes such as MNREGA, pension and 'Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana'

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