The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government whether it obtained the nod from thePresident before the Aadhaar scheme was started.
A Bench comprising Justices B.S. Chauhan, J. Chelameswar and M.Y. Eqbal, hearing a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme, asked Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran to give an explanation in this regard on February 11, when the matter would be taken up for further hearing.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners, K.S. Puttaswamy, retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, and others, contended that the scheme was unconstitutional as individuals obtaining an Aadhaar number were required to part with personal information such as biometrics, iris and fingerprints, which infringed on right to privacy, held to be part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21. He argued that there were no safeguards or penalties and no legislative backing for obtaining personal information.
The Bench told counsel: “If anybody says he wants to voluntarily give details can the court say no, you should not give? You can say, make the scheme voluntary. Those who do not want to give details let them not. Whether we follow the scheme or not it is for you to accept. It should be voluntary. He will not be discriminated against for non-possession of the card. But you tell us whether it should be banned at all. Your apprehensions and misgivings cannot be a ground for challenging the constitutional provisions. If it is done in the interest of security of a nation, is it unconstitutional? Even otherwise no fundamental right is absolute.”
Mr. Divan said, “But that is our grievance, they are giving the card to not only citizens but also illegal migrants. They have so far not changed the protocol of the scheme to bring in any safeguard.” He said the linkage of Aadhaar number with various governmental benefits and services such as food security under the newly enacted Food Security Act, LPG subsidy, the Employees’ Provident Fund, and other DBT benefits, made enrolment with the Aadhaar scheme and obtaining Aadhaar scheme mandatory, completely falsifying the government’s claim of it being voluntary.
Bench asks SG to give explanation on February 11
No fundamental right is absolute, says court