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THE SUPREME Court Thursday declined to expedite hearing of Aadhaar cases challenging the constitutional validity of the initiative but observed that data collection by private agencies might not be “a great idea”.
Chief Justice of India J S Khehar made the remarks after senior advocate Shyam Divan sought urgent hearing of the plea, citing privacy concerns. Divan urged that there were several issues that required to be heard by the top court on an urgent basis. “It would become a 100 per cent surveillance state,” claimed Divan, adding there were privacy concerns since biometric data was being collected by private agencies.
But the Chief Justice said that interim orders were already in place and that the bunch of matters would be taken up in due course. “We are not inclined to give immediate hearing…there are limited resources…but we are thinking about this…involvement of private agencies (in data collection) might not be a great idea,” said the bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud.
The apex court had earlier permitted voluntary use of Aadhaar cards in social welfare schemes such as LPG subsidy, PDS, MGNREGA, pension schemes and provident fund, besides ambitious flagship programmes like the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna’ of the NDA government.
A five-judge constitution bench had, however, put a caveat that Aadhaar was purely voluntary and that nobody would be denied access to any services or benefits offered by the government for want of it.
It had said that that a larger bench was required to be set up for the final disposal of the petitions, including the question of whether the right to privacy was a fundamental right.