Constitution Bench likely to take up petitions challenging Aadhaar-linkage

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Monday said he will consider listing soon the clutch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme before a Constitution Bench.

Both senior advocate Shyam Divan and Attorney General K.K. Venugopal made a joint mention to the Chief Justice Bench in the morning.

On October 30, the CJI had indicated that a Constitution Bench would hear the petitions against the validity of Aadhaar scheme from November last week. The petitions have been hanging in limbo in the Supreme Court since 2014.

A five-judge Constitution Bench is currently hearing a batch of petitions on the Centre-Delhi government power tussle over the administration of the National Capital. It is probable that the Aadhaar cases may be listed after the hearing in these petitions are wrapped up, probably next week.

The deadline for Aadhaar-bank account linking is drawing close on December 31. The Aadhaar-mobile phone linking is due on February 6, 2018. Both notifications have been challenged as a violation of fundamental right to privacy.

In October, the Centre had joined forces with Mr. Divan for an early hearing of the Aadhaar cases. Mr. Venugopal had said that Bench falsehoods have been spread about Aadhaar linking, including how Aadhaar is a must for CBSE students to appear in Class 10 and 12 exams.

Mr. Venugopal had said a Constitution Bench may be set up to decide all the Aadhaar issues once and for all.

The decision to set up a five-judge Bench has come despite Justice Rohinton Nariman’s separate judgment in the nine-judge Bench declaring right to 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. The five-judge had 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

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