Aadhaar privacy issue: SC sets up 5-judge constitution bench

RSTV Bureau

File photo of Aadhaar cards. (Representative Image).

Just two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all state chief secretaries to maximise the use of  Aadhaar, the Supreme Court has set up a five-judge constitution bench to hear arguments whether Aadhar violates rights to privacy.

The Constitution bench will hear the pleas on July 18 and 19.

Attorney General K K Venugopal and senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners who challenged the government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various public welfare schemes, jointly mentioned the matter before the bench comprising of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud. The lawyers appearing for the petitioners requested that there should be an early hearing by the Constitution Bench.

The Attorney General and Divan mentioned the matter before the CJI as a three-judge bench had on July 7 said that all issues arising out of Aadhaar should finally be decided by a larger bench and the CJI would take a call on the need for setting up a Constitution Bench.

“My opinion is that once a matter has been referred to a Constitution bench, then all the issues arising out of it should be with the Constitution bench. I can only say that a matter can be disposed of by a nine-judge bench,” said Justice J Chelameswar, who was heading the three-judge bench.

The bench had said it will depend on the Chief Justice of India to decide whether the matter can be examined by a bench of seven or nine judges.

On June 27, a two-judge bench of the apex court had refused to pass an interim order against the Centre’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes. But the government had also assured the bench that no one would be deprived for not having Aadhaar.

The apex court was hearing three separate petitions challenging government’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.

Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of welfare schemes.

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

(With inputs from PTI)