New Delhi, Jun 27, 2017: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to pass an interim order against the Centre’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes, with the government assuring it that no one would be deprived of them for want of this identification.
The apex court observed that no interim order could be passed merely on the "apprehension" raised by the petitioners that somebody might be deprived of the benefits under the various social welfare schemes due to the lack of Aadhaar especially when no such affected person has come before it.
"No interim order can be passed in mandamus (restraining order) on mere apprehensions. You have to wait for one week. If somebody is deprived (of the benefits), you can point out the same to this court. What is the difficulty," a vacation bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha told the petitioners.
"We cannot pass orders which are uncertain. You are saying somebody might be deprived, but we have no such person before us," the bench told senior advocate Shyam Divan, who was appearing for three petitioners.
"The state is a democratic welfare state which is saying that they will not deprive anyone of the benefits. Alternative IDs are valid as of now," it observed.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told the bench that benefits of various social welfare schemes would be given to persons even if he or she does not have Aadhaar.
Referring to the February 8 notification regarding benefits of the public distribution system scheme, he said it was said that if someone does not have Aadhaar, he or she would get the benefit of these schemes by using other identity cards like voter ID, driving licence, passport and PAN card.
"These means of identity is required so that a fictitious person does not get these benefits," Mehta said, adding, "10 other documents are valid for availing these benefits. Some identification is necessary to avoid bogus, fictitious and ghost beneficiaries. No one is prejudiced by this".
Mehta also told the bench that the Centre has extended the June 30 deadline to September 30 for enrollment for those who do not have Aadhaar and are availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.
"If they have Aadhaar, it is okay. If they do not have Aadhaar, there is time till September 30 to enrol for it. Nobody will be deprived of these benefits in that period," he told the bench.
The bench also referred to the June 9 judgement of the apex court which had upheld the validity of an Income Tax Act provision making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of IT returns, but had put a partial stay on its implementation till a constitution bench addressed the issue of the right to privacy.
It said that the June 9 judgement was in operation as of today and there was no need to give any further clarification on the issue.
"In view of this and the observations made in the judgement inter alia in para 90 in the case of Binoy Viswam vs the Union of India decided on June 9, no further observation is required," the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on July 7 before an appropriate bench.
During the hearing, Divan argued that no one should be deprived of the benefits under various social welfare schemes, including mid-day meals, due to lack of Aadhaar.
He also contended that entire Aadhaar scheme was voluntary and no one can be forced to have Aadhaar.
To this, the bench said, "Your basic apprehension is that someone could be deprived of these benefits. First of all, the government is saying nothing will happen. The June 9 order has categorical conclusions by this court. This order is in operation today."
"Are you in a position to show us what has happened after February 8 and whether anyone has been deprived of benefits," the bench asked.
"If after February 8, nothing such has happened till now, then heavens are not going to fall. You show us what has happened. You have to show this for the urgency which you are saying," the court said.
It also said that the petitioners should come up with data and material if any children was deprived of mid-day meal due to lack of Aadhaar.
However, Divan said, "my only submission is that no one should be deprived of these benefits due to lack of Aadhaar".
To this, the bench observed, "where is the material to show that people have been deprived of benefits after February 8. Today, the question is very limited. Your apprehension is limited". This judgement (of June 9) is operating and nothing more is required to be said by us."
The apex court was hearing three separate petitions challenging government’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.
Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.
The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens for extending benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and Public Distribution System.