A five-judge Supreme Court Constitution bench will hear challenges to the Aadhaar Act, 2016, on July 18 and 19. This includes whether Aadhaar violates privacy rights and the government’s decision to make the unique identity mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes.
A bench of Chief Justice Of India (CJI) J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud fixed the dates after Attorney General K K Venugopal and lawyer Shyam Divan, who represents the petitioners in the case, mentioned the matter jointly on Wednesday.
Another Justice J Chelameswar-led bench of the court had last week advised the two sides to jointly request the CJI to take a call on the matter. It is the CJI’s prerogative to set up a Constitution bench.
Justice Chelameswar was part of a bench which had in August 2015 referred a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar project to a Constitution bench. It was felt that the petitions raised important questions of law. There have been a series of petitions challenging various aspects of the issue. The last of it was a plea questioning the government’s decision to link PAN cards to Aadhaar. The Supreme Court upheld the linking while exempting those who had not subscribed to Aadhaar yet.
Opponents of the project see it as an intrusion into privacy rights and attempts to electronically track people. The government has insisted that the project was meant to check blackmoney and ensure benefits of the social welfare schemes reach the right beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court had refused to pass an interim order against the Centre’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes on June 27. In 2015, the court had asked the government not to make identity mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes. The Aadhaar Act had not been promulgated then.