The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Union government on a public interest litigation petition against the implementation of the Aadhar scheme while a bill is pending in Parliament. A Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar issued the notice on the petition filed by K.S. Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court. It alleged that the decision to implement the scheme — meant to eliminate corruption and middlemen in welfare distribution — was an attempt to circumvent parliamentary discussion and the process of legislation.
After hearing senior counsel Anil Divan, who appeared for the petitioner, the Bench also issued notice on the interim application for a stay on the implementation of the scheme.
The petitioner said the scheme was introduced through an executive order in January 2009. The Prime Minister introduced the National Identity Authority of India Bill in 2010 to make the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) a statutory body. Though the bill was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2011, the government persisted in enrolling residents through executive action, which was “unconstitutional and arbitrary.”
Mr. Divan argued that the implementation of the scheme when the bill was pending in Parliament was a matter of great constitutional importance. The scheme impinged on the right to privacy of individuals, as the confidentiality and security of biometric information private agencies collected were not ensured.
Under the scheme, even non-citizens were likely to get benefits like cash transfers and illegal migrants were likely to be legitimised. This would jeopardise national security, he contended.
The government’s action impinged on the fundamental rights of citizens — in particular Article 14 — especially when the expenditure was likely to run into thousands of crores of rupees, the petition said. The government’s legislative powers were restricted to issuing ordinances (under Article 123 and 213), and it could not circumvent the legislative procedure through executive action. Its decision to go ahead with the scheme was malafide, intended as it was to avoid parliamentary discussion, especially after the Standing Committee rejected legislation.