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SC sets limits on Aadhaar sweep

- Data can’t be shared with police

New Delhi, March 24: Allegations that the government was denying services like marriage registration and property sales to people lacking Aadhaar cards today annoyed the Supreme Court, which ordered that any notification making the scheme mandatory must be withdrawn immediately.

Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran assured the court that if any such notification had indeed been issued, it would be withdrawn.

Official sources told The Telegraph that no such notification had been issued and that the official website of the Unique Identification Authority of India (Uidai), which handles the Aadhaar programme, clearly states that the scheme is voluntary.

“We had earlier passed an order; why are you not implementing it?” the court said referring to an interim order of September 23 last year that had ruled that Aadhaar cards cannot be made mandatory for extending welfare schemes to eligible beneficiaries.

Parasaran replied: “I will ensure that fresh instructions are issued for compliance of the order.”

Earlier, Justice B.S. Chauhan, heading a two-judge bench, had told Parasaran: “I have received a number of letters stating that you are insisting upon Aadhaar cards for providing certain services. In one case, one lady said, ‘My marriage is not being registered for not providing Aadhaar card’, while some say properties are not being registered if there are no Aadhaar cards.”

He added: “You issue instructions withdrawing the notification making the Aadhaar card mandatory for availing the schemes.”

The bench passed the order while restraining the Uidai from sharing any Aadhaar-related data with any investigating agency and staying a recent Bombay High Court order. The high court had asked the Uidai to share with the CBI certain details of a group of Aadhaar cardholders who are suspects in a Pune rape to help the agency catch the guilty.

An aggrieved Uidai had approached the apex court complaining that such an order would encourage all investigating agencies to seek similar data from it, increasing its workload beyond manageable proportions.

The bench, which also comprised Justice J. Chelameshwar, passed the following directions:

* The Uidai is restrained from transferring Aadhaar-related data to any agency or department without the express consent of the person concerned.

* No one should be deprived of any service for not possessing Aadhaar cards if they are otherwise eligible for such services.

The next hearing has been listed after four weeks.

The September 23 interim judgment came on a public interest litigation filed by a former Karnataka High Court judge, Justice Puttaswamy, alleging the Aadhaar scheme had been launched without statutory backing and violated citizens’ fundamental rights.

Puttaswamy’s petition also raises privacy concerns. It is being heard by the three-judge bench of Justices Chauhan, Chelameshwar and S.A. Bobde.

The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to quash the petition on the ground that the Aadhaar card was sought to be used as a national identity card although it had not been made mandatory.


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