The clamour against Aadhaar is getting too robust to ignore. In yet another petition filed before the Supreme Court of India, the controversial Aadhaar Act has been challenged along with various notifications issued by the Central government making Aadhaar mandatory for 17 different social service schemes.
The petition has been filed by one Shanta Sinha and one Kalyani Sen Menon. In the petition drawn by advocates Udayaditya Banerjee and Samiksha Godiyal and filed through advocate Vipin Nair, the two petitioners have raised a slew of grounds in their challenge.
The petitioners have submitted that the Act violates fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21, citing various grounds.
One of their main contentions is that the Act is contrary to the concept of Limited Government.
“there are certain things the government simply cannot do because it fundamentally alters the relationship between the citizen and the state. The wholesale collection of biometric data including finger prints and storing it at a central depository per se puts the state in an extremely dominant position in relation to the individual citizen.
Further the State cannot put itself in a position where it can track an individual and engage in surveillance…..the notion of limited government would mean that every individual citizen and citizenry collectively are entitled to live work and enjoy their varied lives without being under the continuous gaze of the State.”
Besides, the petitioners have contended that the impugned Act coerces an individual to part with their personal information.
“No democratic country in the world has devised a system similar to Aadhaar which operates like an electronic leash to tether every citizen from cradle to grave. There can be no question of free consent in situations where an individual is coerced to part with its biometric information (a) to be eligible for welfare schemes and or (b) under the threat of penal consequences.”
Regarding violation of Article 14, the petitioner has urged that the Act creates an impermissible classification between persons who have Aadhaar and persons who do not have Aadhaar, with the latter groups being deprived of their entitlements in law.
“The State’s obligation to provide financial and other benefits, subsidies and services extends to a class of citizens or residents based upon certain objective criteria such as household income, gender, age disability etc. Persons falling within this group, for short “entitled persons”, form a single homogenous class. Each one of them is entitled to one or more benefits.
Whether or not an individual parts with his or her biometric information to avail the entitlements is completely irrelevant to his or her receiving the entitlement. The impugned Act is palpably arbitrary and illegal inasmuch as it creates an impermissible classification between those entitled persons who have parted with biometrics and those entitled persons who have not.”
Regarding imposing Aadhaar as a condition for availing social benefits like mid-day meal scheme, scholarship scheme etc., the petitioner has contended that the said schemes are availed by children below the age of 18 and disabled persons and it implies that the,
“State is securing bio-metric and demographic data even before the age of consent in so far as children are concerned…..it is irrational and per se unconstitutional for the government to insist on Aadhaar as mandatory pre-condition for availing hot cooked meals under the mid-day meal scheme.
Similarly making Aadhaar mandatory for the Ujjwala Scheme which provides for rehabilitation of victims of trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation and for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims to claim compensation goes against the very objects of the said schemes.”
The petitioners have made a slew of prayers, including a plea to strike down the Act as unconstitutional. Specifically, sections 2 (h), 2(l), 2(m), 2(v) 3,5,6,7,8,9, 10, 29, 30, 33, 47, 57 and 59 have been challenged. They have also sought quashing of the various notifications issued under Section 7, which makes Aadhaar mandatory to avail benefits an subsidies under various social welfare schemes.
The case is listed for hearing tomorrow before Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan (the same Bench which heard the challenge to Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act) as item 13. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan will appear for the petitioners.
Read the petition https://barandbench.com/aadhaar-act-supreme-court/