New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday relaxed its earlier order to extend use of Aadhaar card on voluntary basis in social welfare schemes like the rural job guarantee scheme, old age pensions, provident fund and prime minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana.
A constitution bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice M.Y.Eqbal, Justice C. Nagappan, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy modified the August 11 order on a batch of applications by the central government and its various agencies seeking the relaxation of the said order by which the use of Aadhaar card was limited for getting foodgrain and kerosene under PDS and for LPG.
The court said: “We also make it clear that Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and can’t be mandatory till the matter is decided.”
It also asked the government to follow all court orders from September 23, 2013.
Before passing the order, the court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to indicate three social welfare schemes that the government wanted to link with voluntary use of Aadhaar card.
After mentioning the rural job scheme, old age pensions, provident fund and prime minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, as Rohatgi wanted to add linking the opening of bank accounts with unique identification number, the court said: “Modification and clarifications can be limited.”
At the outset of the hearing, Chief Justice Dattu asked the senior counsel Shyam Divan that “if the use of Aadhaar card is good for getting food grains and kerosene under the PDS and LPG, then why can’t it be good for other social welfare schemes also”.
Divan, appearing for Karnataka High Court’s former judge Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, however said that they were opposed to permitting the use of Aadhaar card for getting the food grains and kerosene under the PDS and LPG but the three judges bench headed by Justice J.Chelameswar for striking a balance permitted this and “we have to live with it”.”
“We sought total prohibition. Attorney general wanted no prohibition (on linking Aadhaar card with different schemes), the court balancing the interest allowed the use of Aadhaar number for PDS and LPG,” he said.
“Making this exception for the PDS was wrong and ought not to have been done .. it has been tried and failed,” Divan told the court, arguing that once accessing things linking with Aadhaar card number gets entrenched in the system, then it would be irreversible.
At this Chief Justice Dattu said: “I am also a citizen of this country. I want to use my (Aadhaar) card for getting facilities. Can you say that I can’t use it?”
In response, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam said: “Even if you consciously know the dangers of parting with information for getting Aadhaar card and yet you opt for it then the state has to step in.”