SC: There is urgency in challenges to notifications making Aadhaar mandatory in social benefits schemes
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard an important constitutional challenge against 18 notifications which have made Aadhaar mandatory for availing any benefits and entitlements.
These include notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for hot cooked meals, several scholarships for disabled students and students in SC. ST, OBC categories, schemes for women rescued from trafficking, bonded labourers, and relief for Bhopal gas leak victims.
The notifications which make possession of an Aadhaar number, or proof of enrolment in Aadhaar database, mandatory which would have resulted in denial of benefits to persons who are otherwise legally entitled to the benefits.
The petitioners, Shanta Sinha, former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection for Child Rights, and an activist campaigning against child labour and human rights activist Kalyani Menon Sen prayed that imposing enroling in Aadhaar as a pre-condition for availing social benefits violates the fundamental rights of citizens. Senior advocate Shyam Divan appeared for the petitioners.
Considering the grave and important issues which had been raised in the petition, Justice AK Sikri and AK Bhushan tagged this petition with the earlier petition challenging the Aadhaar Act, 2016, already pending in court.
The SC also in its orders recorded the submission that there is urgency in the case since the several notifications become effective by June 30.
The bench also indicated that as the matter was already pending for constitution of a bench to determine the validity of the aadhaar scheme and Aadhaar Act , the petitioner may mention this matter again to the Honorable Chief Justice.
As per the notifications of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bhopal gas victims will not be able to seek relief — including compensation for death, permanent disability, cancer, renal failure, permanent or temporary disability — unless they submit an Aadhaar or an enrollment proof. In another notification by the Ministry of Labour and Employment without an Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrollment slip, workers rescued from bonded labour, will not get any cash or non-cash assistance unless they show an Aadhaar number by June 30, 2017.
The petitioners have pointed out that since June 30 is the deadline for enrolment, it is important that the case is heard at the earliest.
The petitioners have stated that making Aadhaar mandatory in mid-day meal scheme, scholarship schemes availed by children below the age of 18, and disabled persons implies that the, “State is securing bio-metric and demographic data even before the age of consent in so far as children are concerned…..it is irrational and per se unconstitutional for the government to insist on Aadhaar as mandatory pre-condition for availing hot cooked meals under the mid-day meal scheme.”
Also, “making Aadhaar mandatory for the Ujjwala Scheme which provides for rehabilitation of victims of trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation and for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims to claim compensation goes against the very objects of the said schemes.” The petitioners had made a slew of prayers, including a plea to strike down the Act as unconstitutional.
The orders of the SC are expected to be available on the Supreme Court website by late evening today.
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Photograph by Anil Sharma/HT