The Supreme Court will today pronounce its order on the plea for interim relief on a batch of petitions seeking the stay of various Central and state government notifications mandating the linking of Aadhaar with various schemes.
Reserving the order after the hearing spread over three and half hours on Thursday, the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the regular hearing on the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar being violative of the right to privacy would commence on January 10, 2018.
Besides Justice Misra, other judges on the Constitution bench were Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The government has already issued 139 notifications mandating the linking of Unique Identification Number with various schemes including rural job guarantee, old age pensions, provident fund and the Jan Dhan Yojana.
The top court indicated that it will address the government plea for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with the opening of new bank accounts in its order to be pronounced on Friday.
As Attorney General KK Venugopal insisted that this should be allowed, the counsel for petitioners said that if in the last seven decades, the system of introduction by an existing account holder has worked, heavens would not fall if it continues for another three months.
The court is also likely to pass order extending February 6 deadline for the linking of mobile numbers with Aadhaar to March 31.
The government has already extended December 31 deadline on the linking Aadhaar with the existing bank accounts until March 31.
Giving the chronology of the different orders passed by the Supreme Court since 2012, senior counsel Shyam Divan, at the outset of the hearing, said that the top court injunction that Aadhaar is voluntary stands as there is no variation of this injunction by the court despite several attempts by the government to dilute them.
Pointing to the ways that the government was flouting the top court’s orders by issuing notifications and circulars making Aadhaar mandatory for so many things, he asked the court to “protect the institution first before protecting the citizens.”
As Divan – appearing for former Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttuswamy – made his impassioned plea, Chief Justice Misra said: “You are on rhetoric and hyperbole.”
Justice Sikri said that his argument is that because this court has passed interim orders, the government had to come to the court before issuing circulars, while Justice Chandrachud said what he was saying concerns reasonableness of the actions but the court was on the validity of the Aadhaar Act.
Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for another petitioner, argued on the paramountcy of the top court and its orders passed by it, saying that the manner in which the government, despite the apex court orders, had issued notifications and circulars, amounted to an encroachment on judicial powers.
Other senior counsel VK Vishvanathan, Meenakshi Arora, and Prashant Bhushan too argued for the strict enforcement of the top court’s orders.
The Attorney General KK Venugopal, however, said that the notifications were issued on the strength of Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act – a point that was contested by the petitioners.
Senior counsel CA Sundaram and Rakesh Dwivedi too defended the action of the government and its various agencies in issuing circulars for linking Aadhaar to various schemes.
Dwivedi said that because of the Aadhar linking, about 2.2 lakh fake accounts have been discovered, while 85 crore bank accounts have been linked to Aadhaar, but Bhushan countered that compared to 85 crore bank accounts, 2.2 lakh fake accounts were a minuscule percentage.
At this, Chief Justice Misra said that it was not the percentage but the impact of the numbers that matter. He said in a town of 20,000 people, 200 anti-social elements can bring a bad name and affect the life of the other people.
With IANS Inputs