SC refers Aadhaar privacy issue to Constitution Bench

The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether a person can voluntarily shed his right to privacy by enrolling for Aadhaar to easily access government welfare services.

A three-judge Bench led by J. Chelameswar, however did not modify its August 11, 2015, order restricting the use of Aadhaar to only public distribution system (PDS) and LPG connections. Instead, it left the order open for the Constitution Bench to consider it and take a call.

In its August interim order, the apex court had held that the “balance of interest” is better served if obtaining Aadhaar is neither mandatory nor a condition for accessing benefits one is already entitled to.

A flurry of applications had followed from various government bodies, including the Reserve Bank of India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the Pension Regulatory and Development Authority, NGOs and several State governments.

Toeing the Centre's line, they argued in one voice that the Supreme Court order stood in the way of crores of Aadhaar holders, who wanted easy access to other social benefits schemes and services by restricting Aadhar to PDS and LPG schemes.

"Can you speak for 100 crore people? If a person has a problem with using Aadhaar, don't use it. People, who survive on daily wages, people who don't have food to eat need a foolproof mechanism like Aadhaar. But here you are speaking of apprehensions of a few on privacy rights... you are not speaking for the country," Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi asked in court.

The government claimed that a poor starving man would have no second thoughts about shedding his privacy rights to enrol for Aadhaar.

This saw Justice S.A. Bobde, one of the judges on the Bench, retort by asking whether "just because somebody is poor and starving, he should not have his privacy".

Mr. Rohatgi said the Supreme Court cannot shut its doors on 50 crore people suffering because of its interim order confining the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes.

All the applications have now been referred to the Constitution Bench for final decision.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 9:06:58 AM |

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