Update from the hearing on Govt notifications making Aadhaar mandatory

The Aadhaar matter (Shantha Sinha & Anr vs. Union of India & Ors) was listed before a vacation bench of Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Navin Sinha today. Applications to stay notifications issued under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act were before the Court.  There are over a hundred such notifications, among them are notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for accessing benefits under mid-day meal scheme, benefits due to rescued bonded labourers, benefits due to victims of Bhopal gas leak, benefits due to girls rescued from human trafficking, benefits under PDS/NFSA etc.

Senior Advocate, Shyam Divan appeared for petitioners. The Union’s representation was led by ASG Tushar Mehta.

As the hearing began, the Union raised a preliminary point about a strong rejoinder by the Petitioners that requires a sur-rejoinder and sought time till next week to file the same.  It was mentioned that the grave urgency that had arisen to keep the hearing today no longer exists as there has been an extension granted until Sep 30 for people to get Aadhaar for various notifications.

Sr Counsel for the Petitioner agreed for the adjournment in principle but wanted an ad-interim order clarifying that no person shall be deprived of any benefits till the next date of hearing until then. The Bench was of the view that the Petitioner's concerns are already covered by Para 90 and 94 of the judgment in Aadhaar-PAN case dated 09.06.2017 and that no further clarification was required.

Mr. Divan read out the previous orders of the Court as well as the judgment dated 09.06.2017 and mentioned that the interpretation of Section 7 has been left open by the Court. The Union responded saying the earlier orders were passed when the project was still a scheme and did not have a statutory basis, but the position has now changed and the project is now governed by the provisions of the Act.

There was an exchange between the Bench and Mr. Divan around what is the need for a further order till the next date of hearing as the operative part of the judgment in PAN case covered that no person shall be deprived and Mr. Divan pointed out that the extension to September 30 operated only qua people who had not enrolled for Aadhaar and not for those who had enrolled but could not link, or do not want to link or that the authentication does not work etc. and that all the petitioners want is an extension of deadline for all classes of people.

The Bench also queried Mr. Divan as to whether there are any deprived people before the Court, to which Mr. Divan responded saying that the deadline is still not over and we will have lot of people coming up in the next weeks as the deadline of June 30 gets over for various schemes.

The Bench however, refused any further clarificatory order and opined that the judgment in the PAN case was sufficient for the moment.  Nor did Union of India want to make any further statement on not depriving people of any benefits till the next date of hearing and stuck to its stand that the notification including the one extending to 30th September would be followed in letter and spirit.

 The next hearing will be on the 7th of July.