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The Supreme Court on Monday decided to constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear petitions from November against the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra took the step after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said falsehoods had been spread about Aadhaar linking.
A separate Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, meanwhile, issued notice to the government on a petition filed by advocate Raghav Tankha, challenging the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers. Mr. Tankha said the linkage was “orchestrated by the Union of India in tandem with private telecom service providers” in violation of the fundamental right to privacy.
In an urgent mentioning made before Chief Justice Misra’s Bench in the post-lunch session after Justice Sikri’s Bench issued notice on Aadhaar-mobile linking, Mr. Venugopal said a Constitution Bench may be set up to decide, once and for all, the various Aadhaar challenges pending before the court since 2014 instead of passing any interim orders. The government however did not mention anything about its proposal last week to extend the date for the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile phones, bank accounts and various welfare schemes from December 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018.
Mr. Venugopal had last week conveyed to the court the decision of the government to extend the time during an urgent mentioning in the Supreme Court by petitioners who have challenged both the validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the law passed subsequently in 2016.
The decision to set up a five-judge Bench comes despite Justice Rohinton Nariman’s separate judgment in the nine-judge Bench declaring privacy as a fundamental right.
Justice Nariman’s judgment had directed the Aadhaar petitions to be posted for hearing before the ‘original’ three-judge Bench.
This ‘original’ Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar had referred the petitions for hearing before a five-judge Bench, which found it necessary to first decide whether privacy was a fundamental right or not before hearing the Aadhaar petitions.
It had referred the legal question to a nine-judge Bench, which came out with the historic judgment in favour of the common man’s fundamental right to privacy against state intrusions.
The nine-judge Bench verdict has a crucial bearing in the Aadhaar petitions, which have argued that Aadhaar’s use of biometric details like fingerprints and iris scans violate bodily and informational privacy.
The petitioners argue that mandatory requirement of Aadhaar for these schemes “constrict rights and freedoms which a citizen has long been enjoying unless and until they part with their personal biometric information to the government”.
The petitions have termed the Aadhaar Act of 2016 as unconstitutional and contrary to concept of limited and accountable governance.
Source: The Hindu