Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory by the government for receiving the benefit of its welfare schemes, the Supreme Court said today.
It however added that the government can't be stopped from making it compulsory to have an Aadhaar number for things like opening bank accounts. The top court also said that while a seven-judge bench needs to be set up to hear pleas challenging Aadhaar, this is not possible at this time.
Earlier this month, the government said nobody will be deprived of benefits because they don't have an Aadhaar card.
It reiterated that until an Aadhaar number is assigned to an individual, they can use alternate means of identification to receive benefits. The Centre also directed departments to provide Aadhaar enrolment facilities to beneficiaries under Regulation 12 of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations 2016.
The apex court had on 15 October 2015, lifted its earlier restrictions and permitted the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards for welfare schemes like MGNREGA, all pension schemes, the provident fund and flagship programmes like the 'Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna' of the NDA government (See: SC allows voluntary Aadhaar use for 6 more welfare schemes). These were in addition to LPG and PDS schemes, for which the court had allowed the voluntary use of these cards.
Critics have alleged that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which runs the Aadhaar scheme, is getting biometric details through private agencies, which violated citizens' fundamental rights.
The UIDAI was established by the previous National Progressive Alliance government in 2009.