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Aadhaar mandatory linking: Supreme Court to hear petitioners

Prime Minister had made the linking of Aadhaar to other important documents valuable as mandatory. This move had been brought before the Supreme Court.

A five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is likely to hear a clutch of petitions challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory to avail government schemes and welfare measures on ThursdayThe Centre has maintained December 31, 2017, as the deadline by which Aadhaar is necessary to avail benefits, including government scholarships, subsidized LPG cylinders, farm loans, and pension schemes.

The bench will hear the petitions at 2 pm on Thursday, reported news agency PTI. Earlier this month, the Centre had told the court that it would extend its deadline for mandatory linking till March 31, next year.

This came after repeated attempts by the petitioners for an early hearing on the issue.

Shyam Divan, senior advocate and one of the petitioners, had previously asked the court to set up a Constitution bench comprising of five judges for an interim stay in line with the court’s order of 30 October under which the Constitution bench was supposed to begin hearing the various challenges against Aadhaar in the last week of November.

On 30 October, the apex court referred all Aadhaar cases to a five-judge Constitution bench to be formed by the end of November.

Until such time as the Constitution bench passes any orders, the government can continue to use Aadhaar for its various programmes.

On 7 December, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) clarified that notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for availing various welfare programmes as well as linking it with bank accounts, Permanent Account Number (PAN) and mobile phone SIM cards would remain valid.

This means that the consumers will have to adhere to the various deadlines for Aadhaar linking until further orders of the court.

While the deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and PAN is 31 December, for mobile phone SIM cards, it is 6 February.

Attorney general K.K. Venugopal had informed the court that the government was willing to, with the exception of SIM cards, extend the deadline to 31 March for mandatory linking of Aadhaar.

The court had earlier tagged 22 cases to be heard by a smaller bench. The cases challenge several aspects of Aadhaar, including the use of data collected under the unique identification programme.

Two new pleas challenging Aadhaar—one by the West Bengal government on the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to various schemes and another challenging its mandatory linking with mobile numbers—have also been brought to court.

Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identification number, is issued to each individual by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) after a person registers their demographic and biometric details with the body.

On August 24, a nine-judge Constitution bench ruled that privacy is a fundamental right, subject to reasonable restrictions. It had observed, “The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.” The verdict is likely to impact on the Aadhaar case before the five-judge bench.


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