The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards to avail of social welfare schemes, including the MNREGA, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, all pension schemes and the provident fund, relaxing an earlier order that limited the card’s use to only PDS and LPG benefits. The court also restrained the government from making the card mandatory.
“We also make it clear that Aadhaar card for social schemes is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory, mainly till the matter is pending in this court,” a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, said.
The order came on applications filed by the Centre, its agencies and regulatory bodies like the Reserve Bank of India, SEBI, IRDA, the Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and various State governments seeking modification of its August 11 order which limited the card’s use.
The CJI said an appropriate bench would be constituted at the earliest for the final disposal of petitions that also include the question as to whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right. A batch of petitions have challenged the Aadhaar scheme on the ground that collection of biometric details violates a citizen’s privacy rights.
The matter could be referred to a larger nine or 11-judge bench. Smaller benches of the top court have earlier passed conflicting judgments on whether privacy was a fundamental right.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi assured the court that citizens who do not possess an Aadhaar card would be allowed to produce alternate ID proofs to avail of social welfare, pension and PF schemes.
Welcoming the Supreme Court order, RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said it would help in the financial inclusion drive and providing easy access to loans.