The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay the Centre’s notifications linking Aadhaar to social welfare schemes. However, it agreed to hear the petitions challenging Aadhaar-related notifications before June 30 — the deadline set by the Union government for beneficiaries of government schemes to subscribe to Aadhaar.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi pointed out that similar applications challenging notifications issued under the Aadhaar Act were pending before other benches of the court. However, the bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and A M Sinha said it would be appropriate to hear all these pleas together to “avoid multiplicity”, and fixed the matter for hearing on June 27.
The bench recorded the arguments of the AG as well as senior counsel Shyam Diwan, appearing for petitioners Shanta Sinha and Kalyani Sen Menon, who had sought interim relief against making Aadhaar mandatory for some services.
Rohatgi submitted that there was no urgency for hearing the matter. “I have serious objections. Identical prayers were made in another petition six months ago too. In that case, a stay was sought. Notice was issued but no interim relief was granted,” he said adding that “this petition and the earlier one are identical para by para… It is an abuse of the process of the court,” he said. When the bench asked Diwan if this was true, he said the earlier writ petition was filed before the notifications linking Aadhaar to social welfare schemes were issued.
Referring to a September 2016 order of the Supreme Court, he said, “The citizen has an expectation that the state will follow the Supreme Court order that Aadhaar will be voluntary. Issues raised are of tremendous importance as far as democratic functioning of the state is concerned. The entire architecture of Aadhaar is surveillance nature…”
The court then asked Diwan, “If you have already filed petition for similar relief, why the second petition for similar relief?” The counsel pointed out that the petitioners were different in the various matters.
The two sides agreed that the matter be heard in June. Diwan sought an urgent hearing, saying the government had fixed a June 30 deadline for beneficiaries of schemes to subscribe to Aadhaar. The AG denied there was any such deadline. Diwan, however, pointed out that though the deadline for midday meal scheme had been extended to September 3, the deadline for other schemes remained the same. Rohatgi countered the petitioners by saying that a total of 115 crore Aadhaar cards had been issued and that none of the beneficiaries had approached the court with any grievance so far.
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