A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will hear a bunch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhar scheme, primarily whether there is a violation of right to privacy as it requires citizens to part with their bio-metric details to access welfare and benefits.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal for the Centre and senior advocate Shyam Divan made an urgent mention before a Bench led by CJI J.S. Khehar for setting up a constitutional Bench to hear the petitions at the earliest. Mr. Venugopal submitted that the scheme touched the lives of millions and its validity required immediate adjudication by an appropriate larger Bench.
The CJI agreed to the demand and said the hearing by a five judge Bench will begin on July 18.
Earlier, the SC had referred the case for hearing to a Constitution Bench in October 2015. But it has been in limbo ever since, despite several reminders for the petitioners.
What is Aadhar Card and where is it mandatory?
Aadhar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued to Indian citizens by the Central government. It is issued and managed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
Aadhar Card is essentially an identification document issued by the UIDAI after it records and verifies every resident Indian citizen’s details including biometric and demographic data.
Aim of making Aadhar mandatory: Aadhar is made compulsory by the government to curb corruption. Aadhar plugs leakages in various schemes by removing the alien beneficiaries (one who exist only on paper.)
Here is a list of recent announcements by the government where Aadhar was made mandatory:
- Mid-Day Meal Scheme requires Aadhar. Cooks-cum-helpers earning out of the schemes must also register with Aadhar.
- Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana (DDAY) and National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) also make Aadhar mandatory.
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana for women below poverty line requires Aadhaar.
- Soil Health Management Scheme and Soil Health Card Scheme require Aadhar.
- Beedi/Iron Ore/ Limestone workers need Aadhar for availing house subsidy.
- Aadhar mandatory for supplementary nutrition program.
- Aadhar compulsory for farmers wanting to take crop insurance benefit and people eligible for subsidised for foodgrains/cash subsidy for the same.
- People wishing to avail benefits of welfare schemes under Integrated Department of Horticulture, National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and Janani Suraksha Yojana need mandatory Aadhar.
- Aadhar made mandatory to avail training under Integrated Child Development Services of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- Aadhar mandatory for benefits under Grih Kalyan Kendra Scheme.
- Aadhar made mandatory for financial support under National Mission for Empowerment of Women. Same condition imposed for Scheme for Adolescent Women, students to avail Central scholarship and financial support given under National Means-cum-Merit-Scholarship.
- Aadhar mandatory for e-panchayat training benefits and students who wish to avail central scholarships at the college level.
- Supplementary meals at crèches require Aadhar.
Aadhar v/s Right to Privacy:
The SC of India in Meneka Gandhi vs Union of India (1978) and in several other cases has declared that Right to Privacy is part of Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 , an article that guarantees a fundamental right, declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
However, it should also be noted that in the 1954 M.P Sharma judgement and 1962 Kharak Singh judgement, the SC specifically held that the Right to Privacy was not a fundamental right.
So, the SC’s interpretation seems to be ambiguous on whether the ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right or not, as on the one hand it declared Right to Privacy to be a part of Article 21 of the Constitution, but on the other it also held that Right to Privacy is not a fundamental right in the two judgements mentioned above.
Now, petitioners are arguing that the government’s move to make Aadhar mandatory is breach of Right to Privacy granted under Article 21 of the Constitution as Right to Privacy is part of it. They are of the opinion that their biometric and demographic details are their personal details and they have the right to not share it with anyone, including the government.
It is in the light of these two judgements and the argument of those opposing Aadhar that the SC five-judge constitutional Bench will begin hearing the matter on July 18.
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