June 30 not a ‘deadline’ to get Aadhaar, govt. tells SC

Published on 21 May 2017 by Team

The Supreme Court on Friday refrained to order an interim stay on a series of government notifications requiring citizens to have Aadhaar by June 30, 2017, to equally access benefits and entitlements, even as the Centre denied imposing any such “deadline” to force people to get Aadhaar.

The government was responding to a petition challenging 17 notifications issued by various government departments over the past few months, making Aadhaar compulsory after June 30, 2017, to equally access benefits, entitlements, services and welfare schemes. The petition asked the court to stay these notifications as an immediate interim relief.

A Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha deferred to June 27 the hearing on the petition after learning that there were other pleas with identical prayers already pending in the court. The court said it would hear all the pleas in an omnibus hearing on June 27, just three days before the notifications are scheduled to be implemented from June 30.

‘Inbuilt extensions’

Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that there were “inbuilt extensions” in these notifications to help citizens access services and schemes even if they are unable to possess an Aadhaar card by June 30. He said June 30 was not a hard-and-fast “deadline.”

At one point, when Justice Khanwilkar asked whether the date could be extended beyond June 30, the AG declined, saying that this date was not a hard-and-fast “deadline” and there were alternatives provided.

“If you don’t have Aadhaar, you just need to enrol and show your enrolment slip. Again, if beneficiaries are not able to enrol by June 30, they just need to register their request for enrolment... Just register your mobile number. Besides, States are obligated to set up enrolment centres,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

But advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Magsaysay award winner and former National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Shanta Sinha and feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon said the language of the notifications is quite clear. Citizens are forced to either posses an Aadhaar card or show proof — an enrolment slip — to access services and entitlements after June 30.

‘Stupendous anxiety’

“You are excluded unless you have Aadhaar or you have to at least apply for it and show proof. If this is not mandatory in nature, what is? This means that, no matter what, you have to start the process of enrolment for Aadhaar before June 30, 2017,” Mr. Divan submitted.

Mr. Divan said the public at large are waiting for the court’s intervention with “stupendous anxiety.”

Mr. Rohatgi accused the petitioners of engaging in multiple litigation against Aadhaar and engaging in abuse of the processes of the court. He argued that similar interim reliefs were sought and not granted by the Supreme Court in the past.

The government's top law officer referred to the recent slew of petitions against the linking of Aadhaar with PAN and the filing of income tax returns. The Supreme Court had refused to stay the law. Mr. Rohatgi submitted that 115 crore people have enrolled for Aadhaar as of date and none of them have challenged the scheme in the SC. “The purpose of the scheme is to get rid of the ghosts in the PDS (Public Distribution System) and mid-day meal schemes,” he said.

Finally, the AG said the Aadhaar matter should be decided by a Constitution Bench, and that can be done after the court opens post summer vacations on July 1.

Noting that the compulsory enrolment of citizens fits the profile of a surveillance State, Mr. Divan said the petitioners should be allowed their day in court and this should happen before June 30, 2017. “As a citizen of India, I should not be made to grovel before the SC for a date for hearing my case,” an exasperated Mr. Divan said. The court took exception to this comment, with Justice Khanwilkar pointing out that the “Supreme Court is open to all”.

News Source- The Hindu

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