New Delhi: Denial of entitlements in case a citizen does not have Aadhaar or refuses to get one leads to abrogation of his fundamental rights, lawyer Kapil Sibal said on Tuesday.
The submission was made before a Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan.
Sibal pressed the fact that Aadhaar should not be the sole identity criterion for claiming benefits, and that it would be a constitutional violation in restricting the choice of identity to one.
“Aadhaar does not establish my status. And (if) I can prove my identity for the purpose of that entitlement by any method, I am entitled to the benefits," he said.
Justice Chandrachud at this point said that if entitlement depended on who you were, then couldn’t the government require proof on that count? Was that not a reasonable condition?
He further pointed out that Sibal’s argument would suppose that every person would hold at least one form of identity.
Sibal clarified that the point of Aadhaar was not to grant identity to those who don’t have it, but to authenticate identity.
“What you want to say is that you can’t be asked to barter or surrender one fundamental right in order to have access to another", Dipak Misra observed as he summarised the basis of Sibal’s arguments. Sibal agreed.
Sibal concluded his arguments by putting forth the significance of this case, “This is the most important case since Independence. When this court decided the ADM Jabalpur case, it was in the context of the Emergency. It was limited to a period of time but the issues we are talking about will extend. It is going to decide the future of India," he told the court.
As part of the arguments against the unique identification number, Aadhaar’s architecture has been criticized on grounds of it leading to a surveillance state by tracking people or using their personal data if not curtailed, being destructive of a limited Constitution and violating an individual’s fundamental right to privacy. Issues with UIDAI’s enrolment procedure that raised concerns about data breaches have also put been forth.
The court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging several aspects of Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number that has become a bedrock of government welfare programmes, the tax administration network and online financial transactions, and the use/sharing of personal data collected by the UIDAI.
Hearing will resume on 15 February