NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to pass any interim order against the Centre’s notification which has made aadhaar card mandatory for availing benefits under social welfare schemes.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha refused to acknowledge petitioner Shanta Sinha’s counsel and senior advocate Shyam Divan's arguments which said that by making Aadhaar mandatory, government would deprive the children of the mid-day meal scheme.
Justice Khanwilkar responded, “Show us who all have been deprived?” Find out how many children have been denied mid day meals for lack of aadhaar?”
“We just cannot pass the order on mere apprehensions,” the bench told Divan.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing on Centre's behalf, also informed the bench that the government has already extended the deadline for getting Aadhaar from June 30 to September 30.
Divan vehemently argued that the extension granted by Centre cannot only be for people who don't have Aadhaar and said, “Nobody should be forced to show their Aadhaar for deriving benefits.”
The bench however said, “The state is a democratic welfare state which is saying that we are not depriving anyone of benefits. Alternative IDs are valid at this moment, so no need to pass interim orders.”
The bench also referred to the June 9 judgement passed by another bench of the court which had upheld the validity of an Income Tax Act provision making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of tax returns, but had put a partial stay on its implementation till a Constitution bench addressed the issue of right to privacy.
The court will now fix the case for further hearing on July 7.
The court was hearing three separate petitions, challenging government's notification on making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.
The Centre had on June 9 told the apex court that around 95.10 per cent of the entire population has voluntarily registered for Aadhaar and apprehension of "large-scale exclusion" of citizens from government benefits due to lack of unique number was "misplaced" and "unfounded".
The government, in its counter affidavit filed in response to several petitions opposing the scheme, had quoted a World Bank 2016 report, which said if Aadhaar was applied to all social programmes and welfare distribution, it would save the government USD 11 billion annually.
The Centre had said that in 2014-16, the government's savings through Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme on account of Aadhaar was Rs 49,560 crore.
It had said though the notification requires people to enroll for Aadhaar by June 30, those who are unable to get themselves enrolled due to lack of facilities, can give their contact details and would be registered later.
The UIDAI had said when Aadhaar has been adopted by several authorities in pursuant to directions by the apex court and as per legislative amendments by the Parliament, the court ought not to entertain applications seeking interim stay of notifications passed in pursuance to the Aadhaar Act 2016, as it would stall and interfere with the governance.
The Centre had on May 19, refused to extend the June 30 deadline for making Aadhaar mandatory for availing social scheme benefits.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had said "there is no question" of extending it and added that the idea behind making Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes was that the benefit should not go to "ghosts" as was noticed in schemes like the public distribution system (PDS).
Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.
The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens fro extending benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and Public Distribution System etc.
(With Inputs from PTI)