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Aadhaar card not a must, reasserts SC

- Bench orders withdrawal of any notification making scheme mandatory
Not binding

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Aadhaar cards today annoyed the Supreme Court, which ordered that any notification making the scheme mandatory must be withdrawn immediately.

Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran assured the court that if any such notification had indeed been issued, it would be withdrawn.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 said that Aadhaar cards could not be made mandatory for extending welfare schemes to beneficiaries.

It today stressed that no one should be deprived of any service for not possessing Aadhaar cards if they are otherwise eligible for such services.

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 also restrained the UIDAI from transferring Aadhaar-related data to any investigative agency or government department without the express consent of the person concerned.

It did so while staying a recent Bombay High Court order that had asked the authority to share with the CBI certain details of a group of Aadhaar cardholders who are suspects in a Pune rape being probed by the agency.

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

The bench, which also comprised Justice J. Chelameshwar, posted the next hearing 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 a three-judge bench comprising Justices Chauhan, Chelameshwar and S.A. Bobde.