The Supreme Court has ruled that Aadhaar number will not be mandatory for availing the benefits of government’s welfare schemes except for the PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution. Hearing the plea raising questions over the collection of biometric data, a mandatory practise to get enrolled under the scheme, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data. The court also referred the larger issue of whether collecting biometric data for preparing Unique Identification under Aadhaar infringed an individual’s privacy to the Constitutional bench.
“UIDAI/Aadhaar will not be used for any other purposes except PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution system,” the Supreme Court ordered.
The three judge bench of Justice J Chelameshwar, Justice SA Bobde and Justice C Nagappan, directed that the information received by UIDAI shall not be used for any other purposes, except in criminal investigation and that too with the permission of the court.
“No personal information of Aadhaar card shall be shared by any authority,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameshwar ruled taking on record Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s affirmation to this effect.
However, the top court did not allow the interim pleas of the petitioners seeking the court to stop the process of ongoing enrolment.
The bench was hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations raising the contention that some states have made Aadhaar number compulsory for a range of activities including payment of salary, provident fund (PF) disbursement, marriage and property registration.
Appearing for one of the petitioners, senior advocate Gopal Subramanium sought the initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre and others, including RBI, and the Election Commission alleging the government and others were in violation of earlier orders that had said that no person should be denied any benefit or suffer for not having Aadhaar number.
The government on its part though maintained that those having Aadhaar number were being asked to provide it to authorities but it was optional.
Besides, on the larger issue of violation of privacy, the same bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India HL Dattu seeking setting up of a larger bench to hear it.
The petitioners have claimed that collection and sharing of biometric information, as required under the scheme, is a breach of the “fundamental” right to privacy, the contention which drew opposition from the Union government.
Arguing for the State, its top law officer Attorney General had earlier contended before the court that right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
“No judgment explicitly cites right to privacy as a fundamental right. It is not there under the letters of Article 21 either. If this court feels that there must be Clarity on this subject, only a Constitution Bench can decide,” Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi had argued.
(With inputs from the PTI)