The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that Aadhaar was not mandatory for people to avail of social benefit schemes, LPG subsidy and other public services.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before a bench presided over by Chief Justice H L Dattu that the government had complied with a previous order by the apex court.
The court, however, admitted for hearing a fresh public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the validity of Aadhaar and seeking destruction of data collected so far. The court had, on February 2, asked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to clarify its stand on Aadhaar’s validity.
Even though the government continued with the programme, it also followed the court’s interim order that people cannot be denied service or benefit for not having an Aadhaar card, submitted Kumar.
However, the bench asked Kumar to file a formal response to the PIL filed by retired Army officer Mathew Thomas, and said the matter would be taken up by a special bench, constituted to hear a bunch of the PILs pertaining to Aadhaar.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Gopal Subramanium submitted that the Maharashtra government had issued circulars making Aadhaar number compulsory for its employees to claim wages, and even schools and other institutions were insisting on the card for granting of their facilities, such as scholarships.
He said the Reserve Bank of India had also made the number compulsory for the Know Your Customer scheme, and all banks were therefore insisting on Aadhaar identification.
Acting on a set of petitions, including the one filed by Justice K S Puttaswamy, the apex court had, on September 23, 2013, said: “No person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory, and when any person applies to get Aadhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether the person is entitled for it under law, and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant.”