72% of the population now has an Aadhaar card (file photo: Indian Express)
The Supreme Court has prevented the government from making the Aadhaar card mandatory for availing social benefit schemes. The court also ruled on Tuesday that no personal information of the cardholders should be shared by any government authority.
A three-judge bench, which had earlier in the day referred to a larger Constitution Bench a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme and the issue whether right to privacy is a fundamental right, said that “UIDAI/Aadhaar will not be used for any other purposes except PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution system.”
Even for these 3 schemes, the court made it clear that the card would not be mandatory.
It also directed that the information received by UIDAI should not be used for any other purpose, except in criminal investigation with the permission of the court.
The sole victory for the government was that the Supreme Court did not allow the interim plea of petitioners, challenging the Aadhaar scheme, that the ongoing enrolment process for the Aadhaar card be stayed.
The bench was hearing a batch of pleas against decisions of some states to make Aadhaar cards compulsory for a range of transactions, including salary and provident fund disbursal, and marriage and property registration.
The government maintains that the decision to enrol and use Aadhaar is purely voluntary. Yet according to Scroll.in, officials regularly insist on an Aadhaar number when citizens attempt to access services in banks, schools and public offices.
By linking Aadhaar to more and more schemes and public services, the government has pushed for higher enrolments in the scheme. But critics of Aadhaar say this this has caused inconvenience to beneficiaries and even led to the denial of entitlements to those who do not wish to enrol.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for petitioner Mathew Thomas, had filed an application seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre and others, including the RBI and the Election Commission.
He had alleged that the government and others were in violation of earlier court orders that said no person should be denied any benefit or made to suffer for not having an Aadhaar card.
The Court ordered the government on Tuesday to give wide publicity in print and electronic media to let people know that it is not mandatory to obtain an Aadhaar card.