NEW DELHI: After a hearing that lasted 38 days spanning four months, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra directed all parties concerned to file their written submissions to put forth their case.
The hearing by the Bench that also comprised Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan started in January 17 and concluded ON Thursday. This was the second longest hearing in the history of the apex court, the first being the Kesavananda Bharti case that questioned if Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution was unlimited, to the extent of taking away fundamental rights. That hearing had gone on for five months (68 days) in 1973.
The SC was examining if the 12-digit Aadhaar number violates the Right to Privacy, which was declared a fundamental right by the apex court last year.
The government had made Aadhaar compulsory for a host of services and welfare schemes, apart from bank accounts, PAN cards, mobile phone services, passports and driving licences.
During the arguments, the Centre had defended Aadhaar on multiple grounds, the foremost being that it ensured proper distribution of benefits to millions and prevented siphoning of funds.
The Centre had strongly defended its decision to seed Aadhaar numbers with mobile phones, telling the top court that it could have been hauled up for contempt if the verification of mobile users was not undertaken. However, the court had said the government had misinterpreted its order and used it as a tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users.
The bench also expressed concern over data leak amid the controversy over the illegal use of Facebook data in the US elections. The government and the Unique Identification Authority of India, however, contended that the Aadhaar data was safe and could not be breached.
Second longest hearing
The Aadhaar case hearing, lasting 38 days spread over four months, was the second longest hearing after the historic Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973, which was heard for 68 days spanning five months. In that case, a 13-judge bench, by a majority of 7:6, held that amendments affecting the basic structure of the constitution were subject to judicial review.