Five-Judge Constitution Bench To Hear Aadhaar Petitions On July 18,19 : SCJuly 12, 2017 16:43
Five-Judge Constitution Bench To Hear Aadhaar Petitions On July 18,19 : SC:- Challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar project, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will hear a bunch of petitions.
The petition will be primarily whether the scheme that requires the parting of biometric details of citizens to access welfare and benefits, is a violation of their right.
On Wednesday, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and senior advocate Shyam Divan joined forces and for the early setting up of a Constitution Bench to hear the petitions, made an urgent mention before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar.
The scheme touched the lives of millions of people and its validity required immediate adjudication by an appropriate larger Bench, said Mr. Venugopal. The hearing was then fixed for July 18 by the Chief Justice.
The court, in October 2015, referred the case for hearing before a Constitution Bench, but despite several reminders from the petitioners, it was pending. This is the first time that the Centre has formally joined the petitioner’s side to mention for an early hearing by a larger Bench.
Mr. Divan, along with advocates Vipin Nair and P.B. Suresh, submitted that the case came up for hearing on July 7 before a three-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar, who remarked orally that the constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme should be decided “once and for all” and probably by a nine-judge Bench.
Despite a Bench led by him, in 2015, Justice Chelameswar enquired why the court had not heard the main plea on the constitutionality of Aadhaar, having referred it for hearing by a Constitution Bench. On October 7, 2015, the three-judge Bench, referred to a Constitution Bench, the question whether by enrolling for Aadhaar to access government welfare services, a person can voluntarily cast off his right to privacy.
The court also took note of the fact of the enactment of the Aadhaar Act giving the scheme a statutory status. Recently, a statutory provision was upheld by the court making linking of Aadhaar with PAN mandatory.
During the hearing, Mr. Venugopal highlighted two judgments of the court — M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh of 1954 and 1963, respectively, both of which had held that Article 21of the Constitution, including the right to privacy, was subject to reasonable restrictions. An eight-judge Bench of the court decided the Sharma case, while a six-judge bench, delivered the judgment of Kharak Singh.
Hence, Mr. Venugopal suggested that it has to be first decided whether the petitions should be referred to a Bench of nine judges for hearing and decision. Recently, the Centre had termed Aadhaar a “transformational home-grown IT project.”
The fundamental right of identity and various e-governance initiatives of the government to provide food security, livelihood, jobs and health to the “teeming masses” cannot be sacrificed at the altar of right to privacy of an “elite” few who have neither applied for nor want Aadhaar, said the Centre.
One of the petitions being heard is filed by Shanta Sinha against 17 government notifications “making Aadhaar mandatory to access welfare schemes and benefits.” Sinha is the former NCPCR chairperson and Magsaysay winner.