Aadhaar in SC: Petitioners conclude arguments, now Centre’s turn to make its case
Petitioners have questioned the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar identity number claiming it is an invasion of privacy, declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court.india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 23:55 IST
Petitioners questioning the constitutional validity of Aadhaar concluded their arguments in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, wrapping up a marathon two-month hearing of their submissions against the biometric identification system.
A constitution bench led by Chief justice Dipak Misra began hearing the 30 petitions against the Aadhaar scheme and making the biometric number mandatory for various services on January 17. Those opposing the 12-digit unique identity number have argued that taking of biometric details such as the iris scan and finger prints is an invasion of privacy, declared a fundamental right by a nine-judge bench of the top court in August.
Concluding the arguments on behalf of the petitioners, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde contended that the scheme was against the tenets of the Bible. The lawyer made his case on behalf of a Christian man from Mumbai who wants exemption for himself and his family from enrolling for Aadhaar “on the ground of their being conscientious objectors”.
Attorney general KK Venugopal will open his arguments on Wednesday on behalf of the government, which is pushing Aadhaar after making it the bedrock of state-run welfare programmes, the tax administration network and online financial transactions. After him, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta will argue for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) – the agency responsible for issuing Aadhaar card. Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi will make submissions in favour of the scheme on behalf of the Gujarat government and senior counsel CA Sundaram will represent Maharashtra to defend the linkage of Aadhaar with various services.
Last week, SC had indefinitely extended the March 31 deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts, Permanent Account Numbers for filing tax returns and mobile phone connections indefinitely until after it delivers a final verdict on petitions questioning the validity of the unique identification number.
To lawyer Hegde’s argument on Tuesday, the bench asked: “ In secular matters, can you say that I will not opt for i (Aadhaar). For example, can a person refuse to opt for the income tax, saying that his conscience does not allow it.”
Hegde replied by noting that despite the existence of a law making it for compulsory for motorcyclists to wear helmets, an exemption had been granted to followers of the Sikh faith.
In his application, petitioner John Abraham said he “believes” that the Aadhaar number “is the mark and number of the beast” as narrated in the Book of Revelations which was a “prophetic warning against unchristian practices.” Abraham changed his school after the 11th standard because the school authorities asked him to get an Aadhaar number for admission to the 12th.
“An Aadhaar number has been made mandatory for all citizens. The Petitioner believes that this is the mark and number of the beast. This belief has been reinforced because of several directives of the Government of India as well as several states making it mandatory for several services,” Hegde told the bench.
He contended that freedom of religion and freedom of conscience were two separate rights and the latter was known to Constitution makers. There have been conscientious objectors in the first world who had opposed compulsory military conscription.
Hegde referred to Article 25 (right to freedom of religion) of the Constitution and said it provided that there would be freedom of “conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”.