With reports of various organisations and government agencies making private details of individuals such as biometrics and bank account details public, a set of Public Interest Litigations have been filed in the Supreme Court urging it to intervene and stop the government from mandating the compulsory possession of Aadhaar.
The government’s decision of making Aadhaar compulsory, petitioners say, was in effect contempt of the Supreme Court’s October 2015 order which explicitly stated voluntary possession of an Aadhaar by an individual.
Here’s a look at the different cases related to Aadhaar that are pending before the Supreme Court:
Petitions against making Aadhaar mandatory for social welfare schemes:
Shantha Sinha & Anr. v. Union of India (W.P. (C) 342/2017)
Taken up before the Supreme Court on May 19, 2017, the petition filed is against the notifications in making Aadhaar mandatory. Senior counsel Shyam Divan on behalf of the petitioner requested the Court for an interim stay on the June 30 deadline (explained below) on making Aadhaar mandatory for all individuals to which the Supreme Court refrained and listed all interim relief matters to be heard on June 27, 2017.
Pan card and Income Tax (Section 139AA):
Binoy Visman v. Union of India (WP(C) 247/2017) and S.G. Vombatkere & Anr. v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 277/2017)
Senior Counsels Arvind Datar representing the petitioner in Binoy Visman and Shyam Divan on behalf of the petitioner in the latter, added another case to the list of pending cases in the Aadhaar matter on April 13, 2017 challenging Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 introduced by the Finance Act, 2017.
The said section mandates a person to link his Aadhaar number to his Permanent Account Number (PAN) card as well as quote the Aadhaar number while filing one’s income tax returns.
The urgency to bring the matter to the attention of the court is due to the first line mentioned in the Act, “Every person who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar number shall, on or after the 1st day of July, 2017, quote Aadhaar number-…”
At the outset, Divan distilled the matter excluding the challenges to privacy and constitutionality of the Aadhar Act, circling the pending Aadhar cases, from the hearing.
Challenging Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 19(g) (part of fundamental rights giving rights to individuals to practice free trade and profession) of the Indian Constitution, Divan concluded his arguments focusing on the altered “relationship of Republic of India with its citizens”..” Pointing out how providing of proof of identification and address of individuals to private parties and not government officials is a violation of rights. Further, he focused on how the Registrar authorized by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) could be a bank, a public sector employee and any other agency having no privity with the Government. Therefore, forcing the individuals to reveal their personal information to a third party is a violation of Article 19(g) of the Constitution. Divan concluded his arguments praying a blanket stay on Section 139AA or a coercion-free system if the section comes into force. He further requested the court to not invalidate the PAN card in case Aadhaar is linked to an individual.
The Court on hearing both the Counsels on behalf of the petitioner, Datar and Divan and the respondent, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi representing the government for continuous six days, reserved the order on May 4, 2017.
The Supreme Court on May 19, 2017 refrained to grant an interim stay on the June 30 deadline to link all individuals to Aadhaar.
Infringement of Right to Privacy (Article 21):
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) & Another v. Union of India (WP(C) 494/2012
All of the 22 Aadhaar matters are linked to the above mentioned case in the Supreme Court. The case is currently being heard by a constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar. In August 2015, a three-judge bench passed an order clearly stating that Aadhaar is voluntary and no citizen can be denied benefits otherwise entitled to them for not obtaining an Aadhaar card. The top court also ordered the government to broadcast the same by means of electronic and print media, radio and television. The Aadhaar card, it said, cannot be used for any purpose other than PDS.
“The Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used by the respondents for any purpose other than the PDS Scheme and in particular for the purpose of distribution of foodgrains, etc. and cooking fuel, such as kerosene. The Aadhaar card may also be used for the purpose of the LPG Distribution Scheme.”
Later in October that year, it further allowed the use of Aadhaar for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, pensions by central and state governments, and the Employees’ Provident Fund scheme.
It is from this October date that various contempts of the order and violations of the directions were reported and individuals were mandated to provide Aadhaar number for applying for pre metric, post metric and merit based scholarships by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Such violations constantly took place and a list of cases tagged themselves to the above mentioned matter.
Aadhar Act passed as a Money Bill:
Jairam Ramesh v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 231/2016)
In March 2016, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed the passage of the Aadhar Act, 2016 as a money bill, amid protests by the Opposition. Although Article 110 sub-clause (3) of the Indian Constitution explicitly states that the decision of the Lok Sabha Speaker in matters of whether a bill is a money bill or not “shall be final”, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the government on passing the Aadhar Act as a money bill without consulting the Rajya Sabha.
A money bill consists of seven provisions provided in Article 110(1) of the Constitution including regulation of tax and borrowing by the government, custody of consolidated funds of India and payments and withdrawals from the fund, appopraition of money out of the consolidated fund, declaring the expenditure charged on the consolidated fund and its increase and receipt of money on account of the consolidated fund.
The petitioners argued that the “Aadhaar Act did not comprise solely of management of funds of the Consolidated Fund of India, instead it was only a part of the Bill that included amongst other things, the roles and responsibilities of enrollment agencies, requesting entities, and authentication agencies, and the information to be given to users,” Legally India reported. The matter is pending before the court and is awaiting trial where the respondents are seeking judicial review of the Aadhaar Act passed as a money bill passed by the Lok Sabha Speaker and challenging validity of whether the Speaker’s decision is “final”.