Refusing to modify its August 11 interim order allowing linking Aadhaar cards with only public distribution system for distribution of food grains, cooking fuels and LPG cylinders, the Supreme Court today said demands to extend it to more schemes shall be dealt with by the larger constitution bench to which the matter is being referred to.
Despite fervent pleas by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi (for UIDAI) and lawyers for RBI, SEBI, IRDA, TRAI, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and states like Gujarat and Jharkhand, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde and C Nagappan eventually went by the argument of opponents of the cards represented by Advocates Shyam Divan and Meenakshi Arora who had questioned its constitutional validity, that the matter has already been referred to a Constitution Bench and the smaller bench should resist from venturing into the interim applications.
No date has however been fixed as to when the new bench will take up these applications. The Centre and its various arms had on Tuesday pitched strongly for voluntary use of Aadhaar cards to provide benefits of various welfare schemes, other than PDS and LPG, at the doorsteps of the aged and weaker sections of society, which are the target groups.
However, the pleas for relaxation of the August 11 order restricting the use of Aadhaar cards for PDS scheme and LPG distribution scheme, was opposed by those petitioners on whose PILs the apex court had said these cards will not be mandatory for availing benefits of welfare schemes.
Rohatgi had opened the arguments for UIDAI for lifting the bar on use of Aadhaar cards for various welfare schemes including Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojna. He was supported by Additional Solicitor Generals Tushar Mehta, P S Patwalia, Pinky Anand and Senior Advocates K K Venugopal, Jayant Bhushan who were appearing for various government organs and NGOs.
All of them were in agreement with the Attorney General that since the apex court had said Aadhaar card was not mandatory, there should not be any problem in allowing it to be used on voluntarily basis to establish the identity of persons to make available the benefits of welfare scheme.
Rohatgi conceded that he may not have understood fully the scope of the UIDAI scheme or was not able to explain properly to the apex court the benefit of the Aadhaar cards which he has realised now after passing of the interim order.
“I don't want to be seen as blaming the court, he told the bench after explaining in detail the concept of the UIDAI number which is linked to various welfare schemes. He said issue of privacy cannot be linked to the Aadhaar card as the government is making efforts for those who cannot reach the court.
“I am for those who have to take benefits of MNREGA, pension schemes etc. How it is understood that somebody is snooping into someone's bedroom. I am not doing that and I am not a paparazzi”, he said.
Venugopal appearing for an NGO, Centre for Civil Society, said for a poor person and a widow it is a option to choose between the right to privacy and benefits of welfare schemes and questioned that can a person not waive of the right to privacy on weighing the two options.
However, senior advocates Shyam Divan and Meenakshi Arora, appearing for some other petitioners, objected to the pleas for modification of the interim order saying that the matter has already been referred to a Constitution Bench and the smaller bench should resist from venturing into the interim applications.