The Narendra Modi government suffered a jolt when the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to modify its August 11 order permitting linking of Aadhaar cards with only the public distribution system (PDS), cooking fuels and LPG cylinders.
The three-judge bench said the government's plea to extend it to more subsidies, salary, pension disbursement and schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana must be dealt with by the Constitution Bench to which the matter has been referred to. Worse, no date has been specified as to when the larger bench would commence hearing.
Financial bodies like the RBI, Sebi, Irda, Trai, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and states like Gujarat and Jharkhand too, had similar pleas before the court which has been rejected.
In its September 2013 interim order, the apex court had said the card be not made mandatory for people for availing government services and nobody should be deprived of such facilities for want of the card.
Strongly defending the cards, the government said it was essential for good governance, transparent implementation of government programmes and ensure that its benefits reach only the eligible persons.
The bench then modified its order on August 11. The SC decided to refer the case to a larger bench to decide the question posed by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi whether citizens had a fundamental right to privacy under the Constitution.
The PIL petitioners, including former HC judge Justice Puttaswamy and NGO Society for Civil Rights, have raised the issue of right to withhold personal information and intrusion into the right to privacy by the state.
Two of the interveners in the case- Reetika Khera, an economics professor at IIT Delhi, and Sahana Manjesh, a lawyer-have contended that biometric identification denoted for UID, namely the iris scan, finger print identification, and the personal details collected, can easily be misused by a miscreant.
They contend that the manner in which biometric details are collected makes it prone to misuse.
On Wednesday, despite pleas by Rohatgi (for UIDAI) and lawyers for RBI, Sebi, Irda, Trai, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and Gujarat and Jharkhand, a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar eventually went by the argument of opponents of the cards represented by advocates Shyam Divan and Meenakshi Arora who had questioned its constitutional validity, that the matter has already been referred to a Constitution Bench and the smaller bench should resist from venturing into the interim applications.
(In association with Mail Today Bureau)