SC says `Aadhar' not mandatory, fears misuse by illegal immigrants

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Aadhar cards are not mandatory and warned the authorities over its possible misuse by illegal immigrants, including terrorists. The SC order could force the central government to review the manner in which the scheme is being implemented.

"The central and state governments must not insist on Aadhar cards from citizens for providing them essential services,'' the apex court said in its order.

A bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde also directed the central and the state governments not to issue Aadhar cards to illegal immigrants.

"No benefit of service shall be denied on account of non-possession of Aadhar, and no illegal immigrants would be issued Aadhar," the Supreme Court bench said.

The court also directed all states and union territories not to link subsidies and social welfare benefits to the possession of Aadhar cards.

The ruling comes at a time when various state governments are insisting on making Aadhar cards compulsory for marriage registration, disbursal of financial benefits, salaries and provident fund among other purposes.

The Supreme Court also questioned the central government's claim of Rs50,000 crore spending on the UIDAI project.

The order, passed on a public interest litigation recently filed by Justice KS Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, seeking to examine the "voluntary" nature of the Aadhaar cards, said Aadhar card is not necessary for important services.

The petitioner in the PIL has highlighted the perils in the indiscriminate manner in which the government was issuing the Aadhar card and sought an immediate stay on the scheme.

The Aadhar or UID scheme, being steered by former Infosys Technologies co-chairman Nandan Nilekani, was seen as the first step towards weeding out the undeserving from government subsidies.

Some states such as Delhi had even attempted to make it mandatory for availing subsidies.

The petitioner asserted that the issue required a meticulous judicial examination since it raised questions over the government's authority to implement the scheme.

"The scheme is complete infraction of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty). The government claims that the scheme is voluntary but it is not so. Aadhaar is being made mandatory for purposes like registration of marriages and others. Maharashtra government has recently said no marriage will be registered if parties don't have Aadhaar cards," the petitioner pointed out.

Appearing for the central government, solicitor general Mohan Parasaran and Additional Solicitor General L Nageshwar Rao, said the Aadhar was purely voluntary and denied all the charges raised in the PIL.

The apex court will now hear the petitioner's arguments for an interim stay on the scheme on 23 September, while asking the centre and state governments to file their replies.