The Supreme Court on Friday heard a petition seeking interim relief from providing Aadhaar cards to avail benefits of 17 social schemes. The petitioners had urged the top court to hear their plea before June 30, the Centre’s deadline for providing Aadhaar in order to receive subsidies. They sought an interim stay until the apex court’s final verdict on the constitutionality of Aadhaar.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, told the court that despite its repeated orders saying Aadhaar is voluntary, the Centre had released several notifications making it mandatory for schemes such as scholarships, Right to Food and mid-day meals in schools. “The matter needed to be heard urgently,” Divan had told the court ahead of today’s hearing. He also requested that the case be referred to the two-judge bench appointed to hear urgent cases during the summer vacation.
Also read: Express column on ‘Aadhaar, then and now’
Divan also argued that the ‘architecture’ of Aadhaar is that of a ‘surveillance state’. “This is not just about privacy. It allows the State to completely dominate the individual through creating an electronic record,” he said.
During the hearing, the Attorney General claimed 115 crore Aadhaar cards have already been issued, in a population of 125 crores. “The idea behind these benefits is that they should not go to a ghost. Ghost in PDS, ghost in mid-day meals, ghost in this and that,” he told the court. He added that even if individuals have not been enrolled in the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) system, benefits will be provided to those who have an enrolment slip and have proof of having requested for enrolment.
The court deferred the hearing to June 27, three days before the Centre’s deadline. It had earlier directed the government not to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes.