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Aadhaar case: SC pulls up Bengal govt, says let Mamata Banerjee file a plea as individual

A Supreme Court bench was hearing the West Bengal government’s petition against the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory to get social welfare benefits.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 17:07 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar,Privacy,Mamata Banerjee
The Aadhaar, a 12-digit identity number given to people who enrol with their biometric details, has been a matter of controversy for political parties and privacy advocates who believe the programme gives government indiscriminate power.(HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up West Bengal for its plea questioning the Centre’s decision to make the 12-digit biometric Aadhaar number mandatory for availing social benefits, saying it was against the federal structure.

The Bengal government, which is at loggerheads with the Centre, had on October 28 filed a petition challenging the Centre’s order to link various welfare schemes to Aadhaar.

“In a federal state, how can one state government challenge a law passed by Parliament. There is no doubt it (Aadhaar) needs examination but the prayer can’t be entertained,” a bench of justice AK Sikri and justice Ashok Bhushan said.

The Mamata Banerjee government’s plea is the latest against Aadhaar that has been challenged on various grounds, including violation of privacy.

The petition violated federal structure, the court said, adding, “Tomorrow the Centre can challenge a law passed by the state.”

Appearing for the Bengal government, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal said the plea was filed by the labour department as subsidies for various schemes were given by it.

“You satisfy us how the state has challenged it,” the bench said, adding the Centre’s move could be challenged by an individual but not by states.

“Let Mamata Banerjee come and file a plea as individual. We will entertain it as she will be an individual,” the court said.

Sibal said they would amend the petition.

In a separate plea, the court issued a notice to the government over a plea by a student opposing linking of Aadhaar to mobile phone numbers. The court gave the Centre four weeks to respond to the petition.

The government is expected to tell the court in the afternoon that it was willing to extend to March 31 the deadline for linking Aadhaar to various welfare schemes, bank accounts and mobile phones.

The Centre says linking of Aaadhaar was aimed at weeding out ghost beneficiaries and preventing pilferage. Rights activists, however, say people are being denied benefits such as subsidised food for want of Aadhaar.

The government says 95% of India’s 1.25 billion people have been issued Aadhaar, which is not a proof of citizenship and is given to all residents.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 11:36 IST