Challenge Against Aadhaar Ordinance: Delhi HC Seeks Centre's Response
The Delhi High Court on Friday sought response of the Centre on a plea which has challenged the constitutional validity of the recent Aadhaar Ordinance on the grounds that it was brought to "overturn" the Supreme Court decision regarding the use of Aadhaar by the private sector.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani asked the Ministry of Law to indicate its stand by July 9, the next date of hearing.
The matter came up before the bench as the apex court on April 5 had directed the petitioners, both lawyers, to first move the high court.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had in September last year declared the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones, and school admissions.
The court had held that while Aadhaar would remain mandatory for the filing of Income Tax returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and telecom service providers cannot seek its linking for mobile connections.
According to the petitioners, Reepak Kansal and Yadunandan Bansal, the ordinance allows private sector to use the Aadhaar infrastructure through the back door by amending the Indian Telegraph Act.
The petition has said that the ordinance amends the Telegraph Act to provide for voluntary use of Aadhaar for identity verification.
It has claimed that this allows telecom companies to use Aadhaar ID for identity verification.
The petitioners has also contended that there was "no extraordinary situation" which required passing of such an ordinance.
President Ram Nath Kovind had last month given his assent to the Aadhaar Ordinance that allowed voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof for obtaining mobile SIM cards and opening bank accounts.
The ordinance was necessitated because Rajya Sabha could not approve a Bill after its passage by Lok Sabha.
The Cabinet had approved the promulgation of the ordinance to give effect to changes proposed in Aadhaar and two others legislations.
The amendments provide for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar and violation of privacy.
It bans storing of core biometric information as well as Aadhaar number by service providers in cases of individuals who have voluntarily offered the national ID as a means of authentication.
However, the amendments make it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it opening of a bank account or obtaining a mobile phone SIM card.