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Supreme Court pulls up West Bengal for plea against Aadhaar-benefits linking

A view of Supreme Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the State of West Bengal for directly approaching the apex court against the Centre's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.

"How can the State of West Bengal come here directly? Let Mamata Banerjee come and file a petition as a citizen," a Bench of A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said.

 

The State had filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. The specific Article can only be used by individuals to approach the Supreme Court against state actions which violate their fundamental rights. Article 32 cannot be agitated by a State against the Centre.

"How can a State challenge a law passed by the Centre? Tomorrow the Centre will come against laws by the States," Justice Sikri addressed Kapil Sibal, senior advocate for West Bengal.

The Bench expressed its annoyance, observing "let an individual come to us... Mr. Sibal, you know this... you are more mature than us".

Mr. Sibal agreed with the court's suggestion to amend the petition.

The court meanwhile issued notice on petitions filed by advocate Raghav Tankha seeking a direction to the Department of Telecom and to mobile service providers to cease from misinforming the public that Aadhaar is the sole means for identity and address proof for e-KYC procedure for mobile phone users.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the morning agreed to the Centre's plea to hear the government later in the day on the question whether linking of bank accounts and mobile phones with Aadhaar would be made voluntary till March 31.

 

On October 25, the Centre had proposed to the Supreme Court its intention to extend the deadline for the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with PAN, bank accounts, mobile phones and several welfare schemes to March 31, 2018 from the current December 31, 2017.

Last week, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had mentioned before a Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the deadline extension from December end this year till March 31, 2018, would apply only to those who do not have Aadhaar and are willing to enroll for it.

However, Mr. Venugopal had agreed to take instructions on certain issues on Aadhaar after which the court had asked him to mention the matter again on October 30.

Meanwhile, the Centre has already informed the court about the government-appointed Expert Committtee on Data Protection Law headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Sri Krishna, which has started working towards a robust data protection regime as per a suggestion made by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in his majority judgment for the nine-judge Constitution Bench which had upheld privacy as a fundamental right on August 24.

The government said the Justice Sri Krishna Committee had already, on October 16, deployed its several working groups to suggest amendments and specific comments to a draft Data Protection Bill circulated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The committee is also considering changes in the Aadhaar Act of 2016 and the Information Technology Act of 2000 as firm steps towards a cast-iron data protection regime.

Mr. Venugopal said a final form of the law would be available by February 2018, and hence, the proposal for a three-month extension in the Aadhaar linking deadline.


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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 9:54:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-pulls-up-west-bengal-for-plea-against-aadhaar-benefits-linking/article19948551.ece

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