Contrary to what is being reported in multiple places, the Supreme Court of India did not say today that Aadhaar can be made mandatory for the government for services that aren’t linked to welfare. Neither did they say that Aadhaar should be made mandatory for non-welfare schemes. In fact, there was no order from the Supreme Court.
For example, this report in the Times of India says that the SC “…did add though that the government can’t be stopped from making it compulsory to have one for things like opening bank accounts. ” This, in The Hindu report says that the SC “said the government can press for Aadhaar card for income tax filings.” This report in NDTV says that the SC “added that it cannot stop the government from linking the 12-digit identification number to the opening of bank accounts or filing of tax returns.”
Prasanna S, a lawyer with one of the parties, who was present in court during the hearings told MediaNama that “the status today is exactly how it was yesterday” and “the Court passed no orders today. This thing about benefit schemes and non benefit schemes, and whether it can be made mandatory for non benefit schemes etc was a conversation that the bench entered into with our senior counsel. Our senior counsel Shyam Divan read out the past order and clarified that, and then they moved back to the actual issue, about our application.”
The mentioning before the court today, according to Prasanna and the group Rethink Aadhaar, was about “the setting up of a constitution bench for final hearing of the main petitions; and (2) ensuring listing for the interlocutory applications to stay the provisions and the fresh notification issued under the Aadhaar Act.”
Both these requests for listing were declined by Supreme Court. Below are additional comments from Prasanna S, and the statement from Rethink Aadhaar on the proceedings held today.
Court update from Rethink Aadhaar (source)
Aadhaar Batch Matters : Court hearing Update
March 27, 2017
The Aadhaar batch matters (Writ Petition Nos. (Civil) Nos.494/2012 et al) were mentioned in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in Court No. 1 presided by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, sitting alongwith J. Chandrachud and J. Kaul. The mentioning sought, (1) setting up of a constitution bench for final hearing of the main petitions; and (2) ensuring listing for the interlocutory applications to stay the provisions and the fresh notification issued under the Aadhaar Act. These requests for listing were declined by the Hon’ble Court. Given the considerable public interest in this case the requests made and the reasons provided by the Hon’ble Court during the course of the hearing are provided below. It is clarified by us that there is no formal, written order which was issued by the Hon’ble Court and the contents below were oral observations during the course of the hearing.
The Aadhaar batch matters were mentioned by Mr. Shyam Divan, Senior Counsel, who first drew reference to the earlier Orders of the Supreme Court indicating urgency in the disposal and hearing of the case. These included, Orders dated 11th August, 2015 and 15th August, 2015 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. At this point, the Hon’ble Court inquired as to the interpretation of these Orders and the nature of restraint. It was submitted by the Ld. Senior Counsel that these restraints were being violated however the merits may need to be examined by the Court, which requires listing and hearing of the case.
At this point it was orally indicated by the Hon’ble Court that for final disposal of the case it may need to be heard by a constitutional bench comprising of at least seven judges. For the formation of such a bench, the Hon’ble Court indicated that this needed to be decided by Hon’ble Justice J. Chelameshwar (pertinent to mention that the Ld. Judge had passed the Order dated 11.08.2015 by which the question scope and origin of the fundamental right to privacy was referred to a constitution bench). It was further indicated by the Hon’ble Court that such a request for formation had already been made by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India to the Hon’ble Judge. It was finally indicated that the order in which constitution bench matters has to be heard / have to be taken up will be indicated by the Ld. Judge. Aadhaar is one of three such matters. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India declined the mentioning for listing of the petitions for final disposal.
The Hon’ble Court also refused a directed listing of the interlocutory applications for stay of the Aadhaar Act or similar reliefs. Such prayer was sought as the applications were listed as per the advance list of the Court for 27th March, 2017 but were deleted. These applications are now showing in the advance list of the Court for April 3, 2017. To ensure they are not deleted again a request was sought for a directed listing. Even though the reasons for deletion are not available to the Petitioners, it may be mentioned that due to the high number of cases listed each day in the Hon’ble Court many matters that are shown in the advance list are deleted and lawyers also make requests based on urgency to have a directed listing fixed on a specific date.
It is emphasised that no written order was passed given no specific direction was given for the listing of the main petition or the interim applications.