The Supreme Court, today, said that the Aadhar cards cannot be made mandatory by the Government and its agencies for availing benefits of Central Welfare Schemes.
The bench comprised of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul.
However, the government and its agencies cannot be stopped from linking the 12-digit identification number to the opening of bank accounts, or filing of tax returns, said the Apex Court.
The Government, recently, made it compulsory for the citizens to produce their Aadhar number for benefits nearly three dozen central schemes including free midday meals for schoolchildren.
Aadhar was also made mandatory for scholarships, and other schemes for backward castes and the disabled.
Aadhar cards are also compulsory for subsidized cooking gas and food grains.
Further, the Center has indicated that PAN cards, if not linked with Aadhar, could be invalidated by the end of the year.
The Government, has even said, that it will enable to get their biometric identity documents by June 30.
The Court also said that, a seven-judge bench needs to be set up to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar, but that is not possible at this time.
Last week, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, had said the Aadhaar card may become the only identity card in future. It will be mandatory for filing of Income Tax returns to curb tax evasion and frauds.
Aadhaar may become the only card required to identify a person, replacing all other types of identity cards such as Voter ID and Permanent Account Numbers (PAN cards), said Jaitley.
The Government has also said that the Aadhaar card is a must for anyone seeking to obtain or renew a driver's license, a new telephone number as well as for existing connections.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, alleged that the Central government is not following the various orders passed by the apex court.
The usage of Aadhaar would be voluntary and not mandatory, added Shyam.
The apex court on August 11, 2015 had said that Aadhaar card, would not be mandatory for availing benefits of government welfare schemes and barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrollment under the scheme.
The apex court on October 15, 2015, lifted its earlier restrictions and permitted the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards for welfare schemes like MGNREGA.
It also includes all pension schemes, the provident fund and flagship programs like the 'Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna' of the NDA government.
These were in addition to LPG and PDS schemes, for which the court had allowed the voluntary use of these cards.
Furthermore, the critics have alleged that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is getting biometric details through private agencies, which violated citizen’s fundamental rights.
UIDAI, primarily runs the Aadhaar scheme.