New Delhi: Just a day after the government notified the law on Aadhaar for its use in various government schemes, the Supreme Court on 14 September ordered a stay on mandatory use of Aadhaar for government scholarship schemes.

The court’s ruling once again raises questions on the extent of legal backing for Aadhaar.

A bench comprising justices V. Gopala Gowda and Adarsh Kumar Goel, on a plea by All Bengal Minority Students’ Council, issued an interim stay against making authentication through Aadhaar mandatory for Central and state scholarship schemes.

The notification issued by the University Grants Commission is not in line with the apex court’s ruling in October last year which stated that Aadhaar scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this court one way or the other.

To be sure, section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsides, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, which allows for use of Aadhaar for government benefits, subsidies and services, does not make Aadhaar mandatory.

“The court is right in raising a question on whether Aadhaar is mandatory. All use of the unique identity number has to be in sync with the act which in no way says Aadhaar is mandatory," said a Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) official, on the condition of anonymity.

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Separately, two contempt cases are being heard by the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court against the mandatory use of Aadhaar for scholarship schemes and public distribution system, among other things.

The government’s top law officer, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, had clarified to Mint that the law will now override such concerns.

“The earlier challenge against mandatory use was against an executive notification that conceived Aadhaar. Now, the law takes care of all concerns surrounding potential misuse."

Consequently, the government can now use the 12-digit unique identification number for identifying beneficiaries of social welfare schemes and disbursing subsidies.

Another case challenging the passage of the Aadhaar law as a money bill is also pending in the apex court.

A money bill does not need the consent of the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority.

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