After a wait of two and a half years, SC lists final date for Aadhaar hearing to begin January 17, 2018.
On Thursday, a five member bench of the Supreme Court heard the Aadhaar matter. The hearing today had several positive developments, and we now wait for the formal order to follow. Today’s hearing despite concerns is a positive outcome also as the court has given a date for final hearing, which has been pending for nearly two and half years now.
The Supreme Court has now fixed final arguments in the Aadhaar matters to start next year, from January 17, 2018. Following this, the date of hearing may vary by two or three days but arguments will now start. The formation of the constitutional bench which sat today is likely to be the same for the final hearing.
The deadlines for linking are extended till March 31. This may include bank linking, mobile and Public Distribution System ration and other welfare schemes. As of now, there is not sufficient clarity on the scope of the extension of deadlines, and this will be confirmed only by tomorrow.
Questions on whether today’s extension applies to all residents, or only those who have not yet enrolled and received an Aadhaar number, is something which can only be confirmed after the text of the order becomes available later today. However, extensions now stands in principle before the final hearing.
Discussion in court
The lawyers for the petitioners took the court through all the previous orders that had been passed for the last few years, and pointed out that most the notifications being made had no statutory backing. The AG representing the UoI argued that the UoI is not responsible for these notifications.
Several senior counsels argued against mandatory linking of Aadhaar to essential services. Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium pointed out that the Court had exercised judicial power in favour of citizens, to insulate them against compulsion, or any form of force through which they would have to part with their personal information. It had repeatedly passed interim orders to protect citizens’ dignity and fundamental rights, with its interim orders in the case. But violating the spirit of the court’s interim orders, the 139 notifications passed by the central government under Aadhaar Act made Aadhaar mandatory for nearly every aspect of a citizen’s life.
Shyam Divan cited2015 orders of Supreme Court which had restrained making Aadhaar mandatory “Once directions are issued by this court, everyone has to obey it. At least protect the institution first before the citizens”, Shyam Divan.When HIV patients cannot get medical treatment because they do not have Aadhaar, .then it is a very sad situation in this country.Attorney General KK Venugopal submits that interim orders were passed at a time when there was no law in force. Relies on Aadhaar Act to submit that current executive actions are validated by law.Shyam Divan argued though the Act was enacted, Union of India will still have to approach the Court and seek variation in the interim order.
Senior counsel Arvind Datar argued that if one assumed that Aadhaar could be made compulsory under Section 7 of Aadhaar Act, that applied only for services paid for by the Consolidated Fund of India, or the government treasury. He questioned why was government asking citizens to produce Aadhaar for everything from examination hall tickets to death certificates, matters which had nothing to do with the Consolidated Fund.
- Article 144 enjoins all authorities to act in aid of the Supreme Court of India, not contrary to its orders.Banking system has worked well for the last 70 years without Aadhaar, acclrding to Senior Counsel Meenakshi Arora
- Anand Grover said that the Data is outsourced to private parties. and RTI asking about which companies have been given the data, has not been answered About 8 crore people have been excluded, as biometrics and iris scans are not foolproof. Anand Grover further pointed our data protection law is not in place yet and the moment you link, silos break down and pointed out examples of data leaks.
The lawyers requested the Court for an interim stay on mandatory linking of services pending final adjudication.
Besides these positive developments, legal experts have pointed out that there may be some risk as the previous orders of the court are being supervised by the order which will be pronounced today.