The centre said the government’s “highest functionary” would file an affidavit in the apex court stating that possessing an Aadhar card would not be mandatory for getting benefits under social welfare schemes.
Answering a query by the constitution bench that a person not possessing the Aadhaar card would not be in a disadvantageous position in accessing benefits under social welfare schemes, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said: “As of now the answer to question is yes and if court wants an affidavit of the highest functionary of the government will be available by 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.”
The assurance that usage of Aadhaar card would be voluntary came in the course of the hearing by the constitution bench comprising Chief Justice H.L.Dattu and Justices M.Y.Eqbal, C. Nagappan, Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy of a batch of application, including one by the Centre seeking the relaxation of August 11 order restricting the user of Aadhaar card for getting food grains, kerosene oil and the LPG.
After being told by the Centre, RBI, SEBI, Unique Identification Authority of India, and others, the court asked the senior counsel appearing for the petitioners and interveners if they had any objection.
“Aadhaar is voluntary and not mandatory and anybody will be insisting on the production of Aadhaar card will be committing the contempt of the court.”
At the beginning of the hearing, the court indicated that challenge to the constitutional validity of the Aadhar card in the context of whether privacy was a right may be examined by a larger nine or eleven judges bench, but said the bench may consider applications including one by the Centre seeking the relaxation of August 11 order.
The three judge bench by its August 11 order, while saying that Aadhaar cardAcould only be used for the distribution of food grains under PDS, cooking fuel, such as kerosene and LPG, has referred all the petitions before it to a larger bench to determine whether right to privacy was a fundamental right.
Opposing any relaxation of August 11 order, senior counsel Shyan Divan told the court that it (apex court) had by its 2013 order directed that usage of Aadhaar card was voluntary and could not be insisted upon.
Assailing the Aadhaar card scheme, Divan told the court the scheme had no statutory backing and the application form for AAdhaar card nowhere says that it would involve parting with biometric data, including Iris scan.
Contending that they have no authority to collect biometric data, Divan said nowhere in the world this has happened.
Telling the court that after collecting the biometric data the every movement of the people are under scanner of the government agencies, Divan said it was the responsibility of the state to guarantee and protect the people’s right and the same could not be “shackled”.