In a setback to the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain its petition challenging the Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of numerous government welfare schemes. The court, however, asked the West Bengal counsel to amend its prayer and submit a fresh plea.
The Supreme court bench, while hearing the petition, pulled up the state government saying how can it question a law enacted by the Parliament.
“In a federal structure, how can a state file plea challenging Parliament’s mandate? We know it is a matter which needs consideration but you satisfy us how a state can challenge it?” it asked. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the West Bengal government, informed the court that the plea has been filed by the labour department of the state as subsidies under these schemes have to be given by them.
“You satisfy us how the state has challenged it. We know it is a matter which needs consideration,” the bench said, adding that the Centre’s move can be challenged by an individual but not by states.
The bench, instead, asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to submit a plea before it as an individual. “Let Mamta Banerjee come and file. We will entertain her as an individual,” it said.
However, Sibal maintained that the state was entitled to file such a plea but said that they would amend the prayer in the petition.
Meanwhile, on a separate petition filed by one Raghav Tanka, challenging the government’s push for linking telephone numbers with Aadhaar, the court issued a notice to the Centre seeking its reply within four weeks.
Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had dared the Centre to disconnect her mobile number, which she said she will not link with her Aadhaar. “Let them disconnect my mobile connection. But I will not link my mobile number with Aadhaar card. I am not bound to disclose all my personal matters,” she had said.
The two petitions were heard in the apex court separately from the batch of 21 petitions which are already being heard by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Earlier, the Centre had told the apex court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail benefits of various government schemes has been extended till March 31 next year for those who do not have the 12-digit biometric identification number.
It had said that the deadline extension from December end till March 31, 2018, would apply only to those who do not have Aadhaar and are willing to enrol for it.
Several petitions, challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes and notifications to link it with mobile numbers and bank accounts, are pending in the apex court.
With PTI inputs