RTIwala Trending: The Supreme Court has asked the West Bengal government to regulate its plea challenging the mandatory use of Aadhaar for various schemes. A two-judge bench was headed by Justice A.K. Sikri. The Bench pulled up the state government and said that it should limit the scope of the challenge to a specific issue that needs to be addressed.
“How can a state government challenge a law made by the Parliament? Let Mamata Banerjee come in her individual capacity if she so wishes,” the court said.
The apex court has been hearing two pleas challenging Aadhaar:-
- One by the West Bengal government challenging the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to various schemes;
- Challenging Aadhaar’s mandatory linking with mobile numbers.
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What Are The Facts So Far?
The court has also issued a notice to the Centre on the plea challenging the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers. The Central Government has been asked to respond in four weeks. On 25 October, the Centre had told the court that it was willing to extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar to various schemes to 31 March next year. It was clarified that this would apply only to those who have not yet enrolled for Aadhaar. A total of 22 cases have been tagged by the court to be heard by a smaller bench on Aadhaar. They challenge several aspects of Aadhaar. The use and sharing of data collected under the programme have been raised has the main issue.
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On 24 August, in a path-breaking ruling, the Supreme Court held that privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India. The petitions are those involving making Aadhaar mandatory for social welfare benefits, infringement of the right to privacy. The challenges are also targeted towards making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and for obtaining and retaining a permanent account number, or PAN. A challenge to its linking to mobile phones will also be addressed by the court.
At a party meeting in Kolkata, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata had also opposed the linking of Aadhaar with her mobile phone number. She said, “Aadhaar number should not be linked with one’s mobile phone. I will not link my Aadhaar number with my mobile even if my connection is snapped.”
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What Lies Ahead?
The centre had last extended the deadline for obtaining Aadhaar for availing government schemes and subsidies by three months to 31 December. The extension was to be applicable only for those who are yet to apply for Aadhaar.
The apex court has made clear that a state cannot challenge a Parliamentary act. The court has directed Banerjee to file the plea in her personal capacity. This development comes as a big blow to the West Bengal CM. She had vehemently opposed the Aadhaar mandate from the very beginning. Banerjee, who has opposed the mandate to link Aadhaar, recently filed a plea against the Centre.
Attorney General K K Venugopal had told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the deadline extension from December ends until March 31, 2018, would apply only to those who do not have Aadhaar and are willing to enroll for it.
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Several petitions, challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes and notifications to link it with mobile numbers and bank accounts, are pending in the apex court.
(Inputs by Gehna Kundra)