With the government going into an overdrive in ramping up the adoption of the Universal Identity Document, better known as Aadhaar, the Supreme Court declared on Monday that it could not be forced upon beneficiaries of social welfare schemes.
However, the court also observed that there was nothing to stop the government from using Aadhaar in non-benefit schemes, as for opening bank accounts.
"Aadhaar can't be mandatory for social welfare schemes but can be used for non-benefit schemes. Our earlier order is very clear. You can't stop government from using Aadhaar for non-benefit schemes like Income Tax," NDTV quoted Chief Justice of India JS Khehar as saying.
The Supreme Court had, in August 2015, limited the use of Aadhaar for a few central government schemes such as LPG subsidy, the MGNREGA, the Jan Dhan Yojana and a few others, until a set of petitions on Aadhaar was heard by a larger Constitution bench.
The bench headed by the CJI also refused to grant an early hearing on the issue. It said that a seven-judge bench would have to be constituted to hear the petitions in the case, and this is not possible currently.
The SC’s observations come just days after the Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill, one of the provisions of which will make it mandatory to provide Aadhaar details for applying for a PAN card or filing income tax returns. Soon after this, the government also announced that all mobile phone service providers will have to re-verify existing customers with their Aadhaar details and biometric information.
The government also announced that it will ask states to make it mandatoryto link driving licenses to Aadhaar numbers, ostensibly to weed out fake licenses or multiple licenses issued to one person.
Earlier, the government had also made Aadhaar details mandatory for over 30 welfare schemes provided by the Central government, including the Mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren. Also included were caste-based scholarships and welfare schemes, as well as schemes for the disabled.