The Telegraph
Friday , May 19 , 2017

No changing June 30 Aadhaar deadline for welfare schemes, govt tells SC

New Delhi, May 19 (PTI): The government will not push back the June 30 deadline by which people benefiting from social welfare schemes are supposed to have the biometric Aadhhaar identification, the Supreme Court was told on Friday.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the apex court that the idea behind making Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes was that the benefit should not go to “ghosts” as was noticed in schemes such as the public distribution system.

He also raised a preliminary objection to the plea seeking interim relief and challenging various notifications issued by the Centre and told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha that this matter should be listed for hearing before a five-judge constitution bench.

Rohatgi said that, earlier, some pleas seeking identical interim relief were also filed and those matters were pending before the apex court.

The bench said it would be appropriate to hear all these pleas seeking interim relief together to “avoid multiplicity” and fixed the matter for hearing on June 27.

When the bench was considering whether to list the matter for hearing during the summer vacation, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioner, said there was urgency involved in it and if the matter was not heard before June 30, ”the other way was if they (Centre) extend the deadline”.

”There is no question of that,” Rohatgi said.

The court, which directed that all these pleas seeking interim relief should be listed before it on June 27, allowed the Centre to file a counter to the plea within three weeks.

Rohatgi had said identical interim reliefs were sought in a plea filed around six months ago in the apex court and it was tagged with the main petition, which would be heard by a constitution bench.

”Now, no other bench except the constitution bench can take up this matter,” he said. ”This is like an ambush which is going on here. They (petitioner) cannot do this.”

Divan said the five-judge bench had specifically said that “Aadhaar is voluntary and it cannot be made compulsory and they cannot coerce people to give their biometrics”.

Divan said the entire architecture of Aadhaar was to put the citizens under “surveillance” and dominate them.

When the court asked Divan whether the orders passed by the three-judge and five-judge bench earlier were not serving the purpose, the senior counsel replied “they (Centre) are violating those orders”.

Rohatgi said, “there was no injunction against Parliament. I cannot ask Parliament not to make a law”.

The Attorney General said 115 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued till date and “the idea behind all these benefits was that it should not go to ghosts. Leaks were happening in schemes like PDS”.

He said persons without an Aadhaar could enrol with the issuing authority and use the enrolment slip.

Several petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar are pending in the apex court and would be heard by a five-judge constitution bench, which is yet to be set up by the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.

The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens for extending benefits of schemes such as LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and the PDS.

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