Clearing all doubts about the validity of Aadhaar card to avail of government subsidies, the Supreme Court on Monday confirmed that the Aadhar card is not compulsory, and further, officials who insist on them will be taken to task.
A fuming Supreme Court issued a stern warning to the government on learning that many government authorities still insist on Aadhaar for providing government subsidies and basic services to ordinary citizens.
A Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde and C. Nagappan clarified that demands made by officials for Aadhaar card is in clear violation of the Supreme Court's >interim order of September 23, 2013 .
In the 2013 order, the apex court had directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory”.
The court's summary dismissal of Aadhaar card's validity comes at a time when over 750 million Aadhar numbers have already been generated.
“Aadhaar is being insisted upon by various authorities. We do not want to go into specific instances. We expect the Union of India and all the States to adhere to the order dated September 23, 2013. We will take the officers concerned to task if any order comes on record making it (Aadhaar) mandatory,” Justice Chelameswar observed.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme as an encroachment into the public's right to privacy.
“It is a matter of great public importance. The issue has serious implication in terms of Constitution. Notwithstanding the court's order, there is insistence for Aadhaar. There is complete apathy on the part of officials,” senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, representing one of the petitioners and Bangalore-resident, Mathew Thomas, submitted.
As an example, he referred to NCT government's notification on March 9, 2015, insisting that couples require Aadhaar cards to get their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act.
In fact, senior advocate Anil Divan pointed out that the Bombay High Court Registrar had recently received an official communication asking him to make Aadhar mandatory for disbursal of salary to staff and even judges.
“You better advise the States, if the officials insist, it would have consequences. We will take them to task. This is absolutely not right,” Justice Chelameswar observed.
Mr. Subramanium argued that collection of personal data of residents of India under the Aadhaar scheme is not exactly a government activity, but outsourced to private contractors.
“On the surface it (Aadhaar) is a simple document of identity, but it has linkages by means of iris scans and biometric details. God forbid if identities are exchanged or mistaken. the Executive's scheme involves private partners. Who are these private partners?” Mr. Subramanium submitted.
Submitting how the ordinary man is now prone to the perils of identity fraud, Mr. Subramanium said the “Sovereign State also has the duty to protect its citizens, to protect his identity, his personal information against possible misuse”.