Five-judge constitution bench to hear Aadhaar pleas on July 18, 19
The petitioners have challenged government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various public welfare schemes.india Updated: Jul 12, 2017 19:29 IST
Chief Justice of India JS Khehar agreed on Wednesday to set up a Constitution Bench comprising five judges to hear a bunch of petitions whether Aadhaar, the unique 12-digit number, is a violation of the right to privacy.
The bench will sit on two days - July 18 and 19 - to determine if a larger bench of nine judges needs to hear arguments challenging the NDA government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for those who want to avail social welfare schemes.
The decision to constitute the bench came after attorney general KK Venugopal and petitioner’s lawyer Shyam Divan mentioned the matter before Khehar. The two made the request as was advised to them by a three-judge bench headed by justice J Chelameswar.
The bench had in August 2015 referred the issue to the CJI for setting up of a Constitution Bench to decide first whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right.
As the matter remains pending in court, the NDA government has gradually made Aadhaar compulsory for various services such as banking and applying for PAN cards.
This has led to a spurt in the filing of applications, prompting the counsel to seek early hearing of the main matter. Venugopal told Khehar it would be in public interest to hear and dispose of the petitions early.
The government’s ambitious Aadhaar scheme in under challenge on the ground that the biometric details taken from individuals violated their right to privacy.
A Vacation Bench had on June 27 refused to pass an interim order against the Centre’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes after the government assured no one would be deprived of their due for want of this identification.
Another bench headed by justice AK Sikri had on June 9 upheld the validity of the amended Income Tax Act that mandated linking of Aadhaar number with PAN for filing income tax returns from July 1, 2017.
However, it said those who don’t have the unique identification number will not be prosecuted till the main challenge to the Aadhaar law was decided.
The apex court has already passed orders asking the government and its agencies not to deny benefits to those who don’t have Aadhaar. But the Supreme Court allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar voluntarily from citizens for giving benefits of schemes such as LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and public distribution system.