SC says no to restrictive use of Aadhaar card

The central government and financial institutions suffered a setback on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court declined to modify its order restricting Aadhaar card use only for public distribution system ( PDS) benefits. The issue would now go before a larger bench to be set up by the Chief Justice of India.

The central and some state governments, along with Securities and Exchange Board of India ( Sebi), Reserve Bank of India( RBI), banks and other public institutions were vehemently arguing that the court order of August 11, restricting the use of AadhAar cards only to essential items, has stalled their functioning. They had contended that those who voluntarily come forward to register for the identity card should be allowed to do so. Sebi and the banks argued that the use of the card would allow them to track black money operations.

However, a three- judge bench headed by J Chelameswar did not change the order and stated in its order that it would be better that the issue be decided by a larger bench. “ We are of the opinion that it is better that these applications for modification are also heard by a larger bench,” the three- judge bench, which also included Justices S A Bobde and C Nagappan, said.

The question of the validity of Aadhaar has been caught in constitutional knots from the beginning. The scheme was challenged by a former high court judge and several organisations alleging that it violated the right to privacy by seeking too many personal details which could be leaked out and misused by private parties.

The right to privacy was argued for several days and then that bench referred the question — whether there is such a right in the Constitution —to a constitution bench.

Meanwhile, the government and financial institutions wanted achange in the interim order allowing them to demand Aadhaar card from people who approach institutions to avail of various benefits. This issue has also gone to a constitution bench with Wednesday’s order.

According to the Attorney General, 920 million people have already received their cards and they gave information voluntarily. He had also assured the court that the information will not be shared with any unauthorised persons or entities. However, the pleas for relaxation of the August 11 order restricting the use of Aadhaar cards for PDS scheme and LPG (Liquified petroleum gas) distribution scheme, was opposed by those petitioners on whose PILs the apex court had said these cards will not be mandatory for availing benefits of welfare schemes.

On August 11, the apex court had said that Aadhaar card would remain optional for availing welfare schemes of the government and the authorities would not use it for the purposes other than PDS and LPG distribution system.

The Centre, RBI, Sebi, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and states like Gujarat and Jharkhand had recently moved the court and pitched strongly for voluntary use of Aadhaar cards for providing benefits of various schemes, other than PDS and LPG, at the doorsteps of the aged and the weaker sections.

Business Standard, New Delhi, 8th Oct. 2015

 
     
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