The Supreme Court would likely set up a Constitution bench next week to take up a clutch of petitions challenging mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services such as mobile telephone numbers and bank accounts.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Monday said he would consider listing the clutch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme before a Constitution Bench after senior advocate Shyam Divan and Attorney General KK Venugopal made a joint mention to the Chief Justice Bench in the morning.
On October 30, the CJI had indicated that a Constitution Bench would hear the petitions against the validity of Aadhaar scheme from November last week. The petitions have been hanging in limbo in the Supreme Court since 2014.
The Aadhaar matter may be listed before a Constitution bench after hearing on petitions over the Centre-Delhi government power tussle, being heard by a 5-judge Constitution bench, are wrapped up. This would probably be next week.
The government had set the deadline of Dec 31 for Aadhaar-bank account linking and Feb 6, 2018, for Aadhaar-mobile phone linking. The Centre’s orders have been challenged as violation of fundamental right to privacy.
The Centre has now said that it was willing to extend all deadlines to March 31, 2018.
Meanwhile, text message keep arriving at subscribers’ phones exhorting them to link their phone and bank accounts before the deadlines set by the government. Judges have not been spared: Even Justice AK Sikri admitted that he too was receiving such threatening messages. He was reported as saying: “I don’t want to say in the presence of media people, but I also get (these) messages.”
The Supreme Court had earlier delinked the issue of Right to Privacy with the issues related to Aadhaar. A nine-judge bench was unanimous in its verdict declaring privacy to be a Fundamental Right against the intrusions by the state.
This would have a bearing on the Aadhaar linking case. If linking of Aadhaar to various services and welfare schemes are ruled as infringement of an individual’s privacy, it would be deemed as violation of Fundamental Right.
Besides, as pointed out in a report in India Legal magazine, there is another danger inherent in Aadhaar for individuals in the event of an inadvertent or deliberate deactivation of Aadhaar number: all details of the individual would be wiped out and he would be unable to avail any services. In the records, he would cease to exist. Even a mismatch in fingerprint can deprive a person from the entire basket of services, including medical, that he or she may be availing.
Aadhaar petitions have argued that Aadhaar’s use of biometric details like fingerprints and iris scans violate bodily and informational privacy and that mandatory requirement of Aadhaar for services and welfare schemes “constrict rights and freedoms which a citizen has long been enjoying unless and until they part with their personal biometric information to the government”.
The petitions have termed the Aadhaar Act of 2016 as unconstitutional and contrary to concept of limited and accountable governance.