Case schedule clouds Aadhaar link deadline, petitioners to seek extension in SC
Petitioners opposed to the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, phone numbers and other services will seek an extension of the deadline for such linkage, their lawyers said on Tuesday, citing the low probability of the case being concluded in the Supreme Court by March 31, the current deadline for such linking.
The Supreme Court is expected to resume hearing the case on March 6. In December, it extended the last date for completion of the process to link Aadhaar with services to March 31. However, going by where the case stands, it is unlikely to be concluded by March-end, the petitioners contend. A delay also seems certain because the same five-judge bench hearing the Aadhaar case has been asked to hear the land acquisition case on priority.
The land acquisition case has occupied centre stage in the Supreme Court with one three-judge bench taking issue last week with the 8 February judgement of another three-judge bench that, in effect, overturns the judgement of yet another three-judge bench dating back to 2014.
“We will be renewing the request for extension of the March 31 deadline as it is becoming apparent that the hearing cannot be concluded and the judgment delivered before March-end,” said senior advocate Sanjay Hedge, who appears for petitioner John Abraham, a student denied admission to a Mumbai college for lack of Aadhaar.
People familiar with the matter in UIDAI concur with the assessment that the judgment is unlikely to be delivered by March 31, and said that an extension is “likely”. One official said that it was for the court to decide on the deadline, and that the authority would comply with an extension, if needed.
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive officer of the UIDAI, said it would be inappropriate for him to speak on the issue. “Since the matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court, let’s wait for the court’s verdict,” he said.
So far, only senior advocates Shyam Divan and Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioners have finished their arguments. Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who appears for one of the petitioners, is currently midway through his arguments. Six more lawyers, Arvind Datar, KTS Tulsi, Anand Grover, KV Viswanathan, Minakshi Arora and Sanjay Hegde , are to follow.
After that, it will be the turn of the government , led by attorney general KK Venugopal, to defend Aadhaar. Thereafter, UIDAI and the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments will make separate arguments on the matter.
One of the main arguments of the petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar is that it violates privacy rights. The government has argued that Aaadhar is necessary to plug leakages in its subsidy programmes and prevent corruption.
“Yes, we will be pressing for the extension of the March 31 deadline for linking Aadhaar to various services as the hearing cannot be completed by March-end,” said advocate Vipin Nair, who appears for petitioner Dr Kalyani Menon Sen.
“The land acquisition case, to be heard by the same bench , will come up first, further lowering the chance of a judgment in the latter by the end of next month,” Nair added.
According to the list of business released by the Supreme Court registry, the land acquisition case, to be heard by the same five-judge bench hearing the Aadhaar case, will be taken up first.
Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, who is not appearing in the Aadhaar case, said a verdict was not likely by March 31 even if the court passed interim orders on the issue and resumed the Aadhar hearing at the earliest. “The court is giving full latitude to counsels to argue the way they want. At the rate which the case is progressing, it very unlikely that the hearing will end by March end. It will take much longer.”
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