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Aadhaar to continue, govt tells top court

New Delhi, Feb. 13: The Narendra Modi government today told the Supreme Court that it intended to continue with the UPA regime's Aadhaar scheme.

However, a related assurance that entitlements would not be linked to the cards came under stress in court when two complainants challenged the claim.

The court then sought the response of Maharashtra and the Centre on allegations that the Aadhaar card had been made mandatory for judges of Bombay High Court for obtaining their salaries.

"The Unique Identification Authority of India would continue to act," solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar told the apex court during a brief hearing, indicating that the new government has no intention to scrap the scheme launched by its predecessor.

Kumar assured the court there would be no insistence on production of the Aadhaar cards for accessing any social scheme or welfare benefits.

However, former solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium and counsel Aishwaraya Rai, appearing for Bangalore-based petitioner Mathew Thomas, complained to the court that "the Maharashtra government had recently brought out a circular insisting on Aadhaar cards for payment of salaries of even constitutional functionaries, including judges of the high court".

Assailing the Aadhaar scheme, Subramanium told the court that the UID was not constituted under any statute and the scheme should be struck down forthwith.

"The Constitution does not permit such State surveillance. The UID is the first step towards profiling, tracking and stereotyping. Mere production of ID cards by people, upon demand by police, would neither absolve such persons of suspicion, nor would it prevent them from indulging in criminal activities," the senior counsel told a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice A.K. Sikri.

Following the submission, the court issued notices to the Maharashtra government, the Centre and the RBI for their response to the specific charge.

The apex court was hearing a fresh PIL raising fears that the data collected would impinge on national security and the individual's privacy.

Petitioner Thomas sought the quashing of a notification issued in 2009 by the Planning Commission to set up the UIDAI for preparing the Aadhaar cards.

The petition claimed that data was being collected by certain foreign companies with alleged dubious credentials.

In 2013, a former Karnataka High Court judge had filed a PIL challenging the UIDAI scheme on the ground that it had no statutory backing and that it violated the fundamental rights.

The apex court had then restrained the authorities from making the Aadhaar card mandatory for extending any benefits. However, the matter could not be heard fully as Justice B.S. Chauhan, who was hearing the matter, had retired in July 2014. That petition is still pending.

Justice Dattu said that in view of the importance of the issue involved, a new bench would soon be constituted to deal with the two PILs.


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