Aadhaar Not Necessary For Bank Accounts, Phones For Now: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ruled that for now, citizens do not have to link their Aadhaar numbers to a range of services including bank accounts, mobile phones and passport. The top court said that a biometric ID is mandatory for accessing social welfare schemes and subsidies, but till it decides on whether the government’s demand for Aadhaar to be linked to private and public services is a violation of the right to privacy, the 12-digit unique number given to each citizen does not have to be linked to other services.
The bench, which also comprised justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, had earlier said that since the matter would have implications on financial institutions, like banks and stock exchange, it would create a huge problem of compliance if the deadline was extended at the last moment. Section 7 of Aadhaar Act relates to the targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.
The government had made it mandatory to link Aadhaar with welfare schemes, as well as essential services like banking and phone, insisting that it was necessary to weed out benami deals and black money. The Centre was also planning to make it mandatory to link Aadhaar card with driving licence and voter ID cards, among other things.
On March 7, a five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said it may not be possible to take a call on the petitions by March 31. It is unlikely that an order will be delivered before the top court goes on vacation in May, lawyers say.
Campaigners and technology experts have raised concern about the privacy and safety of data, the susceptibility of biometrics to failure, and the misuse of data for profiling or increased surveillance.
A group of petitioners have asked the Supreme Court to declare the government’s insistence on Aadhaar disclosure as a violation of the right to privacy. In August 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right, but made it clear that the decision on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar would be taken separately.
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