NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for public to avail benefits of social welfare schemes. However, the court added that the government cannot be stopped from implementing the same for non-welfare schemes.
While refusing to set an early date of hearing, a bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar said it would soon set up a seven-judge bench to hear a batch of petitions challenging the scheme for infringing on citizens’ rights to privacy.
“Aadhaar can’t be mandatory for social welfare schemes but can be used for non-benefit schemes. Our earlier order is very clear. You can’t stop government from using Aadhaar for non-benefit schemes like Income Tax,” the bench said.
However, in direct contradiction, the government has already made the 12-digit UID compulsory for grant of incentives under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). “The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has issued a notification on 17th February 2017, for use of Aadhaar number as mandatory identity document for providing incentives to the beneficiary for the construction of IHHLs (individual household latrines),” says a notification on programme’s website.
Refusing an early hearing, the Supreme Court said, “At present constituting seven-judge bench is not possible. There are three other matters which are to be heard by constitution benches. We have already taken a call.
This matter is in my mind. We will hear the matter one after the other.” The bench was hearing appeals stating the government was not following the court’s order that Aadhaar should be voluntary, not mandatory.
The top court’s observations have come just days after the Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill, making Aadhaar mandatory to apply for a PAN card or file income tax returns. The government has also asked all mobile service providers to re-verify their existing customers with Aadhaar details, and said it would ask States to link driving licences with Aadhaar to weed out fake and multiple licences.
In August 2015, the Supreme Court said the Aadhaar would not be mandatory for availing benefits of government’s welfare schemes. It had also barred authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected under the scheme. Later, the court allowed ‘voluntary’ use of the universal number for welfare schemes.