The Supreme Court will take up on June 9 pleas seeking review of a verdict upholding the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but striking down some of its provisions, including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.
A five-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and L Nageswara Rao, will take up a batch of review pleas in-chambers by which they have challenged the September 26, 2018 verdict.
The written submissions filed by senior advocate Shyam Divan on behalf of petitioners sought open court hearing of the review pleas and said they have challenged the correctness of the judgment on the ground that the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016 was incorrectly certified as a Money Bill by the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
“It is submitted that Aadhaar failed to meet the strict standard laid out in Article 110 (1). For a legislation that has serious implications on the rights of citizens to be passed without consideration of Rajya Sabha is nothing but a fraud on the Constitution, as the minority judgement notes,” the written submission filed through advocate Vipin Nair said.
The petitioners have referred to two verdicts of top court, including one of November 13 last year, by which the top court had struck down in entirety the rules formulated by the Centre on appointment and service conditions for members of various tribunals, and referred to a larger bench the issue of examining the validity of the passage of the Finance Act 2017 as Money Bill.
The other verdict, which has been cited by the petitioners, is of November 14 last year in which the top court had referred to a larger bench the pleas seeking review of its the historic 2018 judgement allowing women and girls of all ages to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, along with other contentious issues of alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.
“In view of the same it is humbly requested that this court may be pleased to allow the IA No. 6225/2019, and grant the petitioners an opportunity to make oral submission before an open court, so as to enable them to explain and justify their reasons for reconsideration of the judgment under review,” the written submission of Divan said.
Observing that Aadhaar neither tends to create a “surveillance state” nor it infringed the Right to Privacy, the top court had on September 26, 2018 declared that the Centre”s biometric identity project was constitutionally valid but limited the scope, ruling it is not mandatory for bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that while Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing of Income Tax Return and allotment of permanent account number (PAN), it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and the telecom service providers cannot seek its linking for mobile connections.
In a 4-1 verdict that also quashed some contentious provisions of the Aadhaar Act, the top court, however, had held Aadhaar would remain compulsory for filing of Income Tax Return (ITR) and allotment of a permanent account number (PAN) and for availing facilities of welfare schemes and government subsidies.
“It is better to be unique than the best. Because being the best makes you the number one but being unique makes you the only one,” the top court had said after a long-drawn bruising legal battle against the government’s ambitious project–the world’s largest biometric ID database.
Ruling that seeding of Aadhaar would not be required for opening bank accounts, availing mobile services, by CBSE, NEET, JEE, UGC and for admissions in schools and free education for children, the top court had observed that Aadhaar had also become a household name and that its use has spread like a “wildfire”.
It had struck down as unconstitutional the portion of Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 that permitted private entities like telecom companies or other corporates to avail of the biometric Aadhaar data.
Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the bench had given a dissenting judgement in which he ruled the Aadhaar Act should not have been passed as Money Bill as it amounts to fraud on the Constitution and is liable to be struck down.
But the majority verdict by other four judges, including the then CJI, upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill by Lok Sabha.
Observing that Aadhaar was meant to help the benefits reach the marginalised sections of the society, it had said the scheme takes into account the dignity of people not only from personal but also from the community point of view as well and served the much bigger public interest.