New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order against mandatory use of Aadhaar for various government schemes, and suggested that petitioners call for immediate formation of a constitution bench to decide on the case.
“It seems that we are in a totalitarian regime where people are being forcefully tagged and tracked by the government," said Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioner, while referring to the current situation. He alleged that the country was turning into a concentration camp.
This was strongly opposed by the Centre which, through attorney general K.K. Venugopal, told the court that at least 350 million people were being able to access benefits under various government schemes.
At the last hearing, the Centre had told the court that those who did not hold Aadhaar would not be deprived of benefits under social welfare schemes by the government until the next hearing.
Taking this into consideration, the court did not pass an interim order and said that it would take action if there was a specific instance where such benefits had been denied in the absence of an Aadhaar number.
The Centre had revised the deadline for enrolment under Aadhaar, the Centre’s unique identity number project, from 30 June to 30 September for availing of benefits under various social welfare schemes such as mid-day meals and subsidy for cooking gas.
The court was hearing three petitions that challenged notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for availing of benefits under social welfare schemes.
Last month, the court had upheld the government’s decision to link Aadhaar with the Permanent Account Number (PAN) for filing of income-tax returns, but ruled that non-compliance with the law will carry no retrospective criminal consequences.
Under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the unique identity number is mandatory only to receive social welfare benefits.
In August 2015, a three-judge bench referred the question of whether an Indian citizen enjoys the fundamental right to privacy to a larger Constitution bench, which is yet to be constituted.