The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to ensure that Aadhaar is not mandatory for citizens to avail any benefit under government schemes.
The apex court also ruled that Aadhaar cannot be used for any purpose other than to link beneficiaries to the public distribution system and for distribution of LPG cylinders.
A three-judge bench presided by Justice J Chelameswar told the Centre to give the ruling wide publicity in print and electronic media, including radio and television.
After recording concurrence of Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and C Nagappan, instructed the government to ensure that personal information collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) would not be shared with anyone except when directed for investigation into criminal cases.
Meanwhile, the court referred a batch of PILs, including one filed by former Karnataka High Court judge Justice K S Puttaswamy, to a Constitution bench of appropriate strength to determine whether right to privacy was a fundamental right.
The AG, while defending the ambitious scheme launched by the erstwhile UPA government, contended that about 100 crore people have voluntarily come forward to get themselves registered.
He submitted that there was already an order by the apex court passed in September 23, 2013, not to make Aadhaar mandatory. The government had earlier submitted that it had spent Rs 5,000 crore on the scheme.
“We are not snooping on people. Today, several social benefit schemes like distribution of LPG, MNREGA, pension has been linked to Aadhaar, only 10 per cent people remained to be covered,” said Rohatgi.
“But you unwittingly allowed others to snoop. By this, you might enable others to use information to harm the people,” the bench observed.
To this, Rohatgi said that nowadays, biometric system has been installed at several offices, including the Supreme Court, to check ghost employees.
Indicating the scale of the people covered under the Aadhaar, he urged the court not to pass any order as it might prove to be a “retrograde step”. The bench advised him not to use such a “tag” prompting the top law officer of the country to withdraw his word.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing a petitioner, sought a blanket ban on all enrolments, saying that there is no security of the data collected by private agencies roped in for the purpose in the absence of a government official.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Anil Divan submitted that the project was a sign of a totalitarian state as the process was very invasive and even newborns were to be registered under the scheme.