NEW DELHI: Many rights' activists welcomed the Supreme Court's judgement on the Aadhaar scheme Wednesday saying it is a "historic verdict" that will provide major relief to the common man while some termed it "disappointing".
"The apex court in its verdict struck down a few portions and read down others in the Aadhaar Act. It did not call it it unconstitutional, but said it is needed for getting subsidies in government schemes," Supreme Court advocate Prashan Bhushan said.
Earlier in the day, the court declared the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that while Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and telecom service providers cannot seek its linking for mobile connections.
"I think it is a historic judgement, and will provide a major relief to the common man. Private companies earlier would demand Aadhaar for offering services, or opening bank accounts, admission in schools and buying a mobile SIM card was denied to people for lack of it. So, it would spell out major relief for citizens," Bhushan said.
The verdict said it would not be mandatory for school admissions, as also for the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.
The bench also struck down the national security exception under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act.
Rahul Rai, Director of Delhi-based NGO, Indian Institute of Human Rights, said it was a "balanced judgement".
"The controversy over the Aadhaar has been going for a long time, and it had to be laid to rest some day. So, I am glad it has been in the apex court verdict. Also, it is heartening to learn that in the judgement, it has been spelt out that private companies cannot insist on having an Aadhaar, be it banking or telecom services," he said.
But not everyone was happy about the judgement.
Amnesty India in a tweet said "making an Aadhaar card a prerequisite to access essential services and benefits can obstruct access to several constitutional rights, including the rights of people to food, health care, education and social security."
Right to food activist Dipa Sinha said, "We have been fighting for the right to food for people and, we were expecting that these welfare schemes would be delinked from Aaadhar too."
"So, in that way the judgment is quite disappointing. We wish the minority bench judgement was the main verdict," she said.
Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, who were also part of the bench, wrote their individual opinions.
Justice Chandrachud said the Aadhaar Act could not have been passed as Money Bill as it amounted to a fraud on the Constitution.
Bypassing the Rajya Sabha to pass the Act amounted to subterfuge and is liable to be struck down as violative of Article 110 of the Constitution, he held.
Noting that mobile has become an important feature of life and its seeding with Aadhaar posed a grave threat to privacy, liberty, autonomy, he favoured deletion of consumers' Aadhaar data by the mobile service providers.
Lawyer-activist Ashok Agarwal also described it as a very good judgement, especially from the perspective of admission in schools.
"Admission in schools cannot be linked to Aadhaar, so that way it is a very good judgement. Now, private companies cannot ask for Aadhaar for banking or telecom facilities, so it is welcoming that way too," he said.
"On the data already stored with private companies, the government would have to come up with some policy," Agarwal said.
Activist Ranjana Kumari claimed after this judgement, people will be "less suspicious" about getting their privacy violated.