New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday made it clear that the unique identification number – Aadhaar – can’t be made mandatory for availing benefits under social welfare schemes.
A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, however, said Aadhaar could be required for other schemes.
Appearing for a petitioner who has challenged a spate of orders issued by the government making Aadhaar mandatory to access benefits under various schemes including opening accounts, Senior counsel Shyam Divan told the court that it was happening in breach of their earlier orders.
Divan, in a mentioning, told the court that it had said earlier that acquiring Aadhaar card would be voluntary and not mandatory.
Taking the court through various orders passed from time to time since November 2012, he told the court that “they (government orders) are all violating these orders, apart from contempt (of court)”.
An August 11, 2015 apex court order had limited the use of Aadhaar number for getting foodgrain and kerosene under PDS and LPG. This order was modified on October 1, 2015, to permit the use of Aadhaar card for MNREGA, old age pension scheme, provident fund and Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana.
As Divan pressed for the hearing of the matter by a 7-judge constitution bench, Chief Justice Khehar expressed his inability to constitute it, saying hearing the case would take a long time.
“We understand what you are saying. Issue you are asking requires seven judges. It would take time,” Chief Justice Khehar said. “We will take a call. We have taken a call. It is in our mind. We will take it up in the order.”
Divan had appeared for former Karnataka High Court judge K.S. Puttaswamy – one of the petitioners.