The Supreme Court on Monday observed that Aadhar card cannot stand in the way of citizens accessing the benefits of social welfare schemes of the government.
The bench comprised of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul.
Recently, the government made it mandatory for citizens to produce the 12-digit Aadhaar number for benefits under dozens of central schemes – free mid-day meals for schoolchildren, scholarships, subsidised cooking gas and foodgrains and other schemes for backward castes and the disabled.
The bench also said that a seven-judge bench needed to be constituted for authoritatively deciding a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme on grounds including that it infringes on the Right to Privacy of citizens.
It, however, expressed inability in setting up of the seven-judge bench saying it would be decided at a later stage.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, alleged that the Central government is not following the various orders passed by the apex court that the usage of Aadhaar would be voluntary and not mandatory.
In October 2015, the Supreme Court extended the voluntary use of the card to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), all types of pensions schemes, employee provident fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana.
A Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, had said that the use of the Aadhaar card was purely voluntary and not mandatory. With this, the Supreme Court modified an August 11, 2015 order issued by its three-judge Bench restricting Aadhaar use to only PDS and LPG (cooking gas) distribution.
Divan, representing one of the petitioners who has challenged the Aadhaar card scheme, had claimed that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which runs the programme, is neither backed by any law nor by any notification and is getting biometric details through private agencies.
The lawyers for the petitioners had contended that the scheme is “all pervasive” and is not full proof either and hence, cannot be used for other programmes.
On October 14, 2015, the apex court took note of Centre’s plea that Aadhaar cards be allowed to be used “voluntarily” for welfare programmes other than PDS and LPG schemes and asked whether it can assure that nobody would be at a “disadvantageous” position for want of Aadhaar.