The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and said that it empowers the marginalised sections of the society. The ruling, however, came with certain caveats with the top court mandating that the 12-digit identifier will not be required for obtaining SIM cards and opening bank accounts.
In Wednesday's verdict, the apex court also stated that Aadhaar will not be mandatory for school admissions, UGC, NEET and CBSE examinations. However, the linkage of Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards with Aadhaar remains compulsory.
Here is a list of where things stand:
- The need to link your bank account with your Aaadhar number has been done away with.
- Supreme Court has struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, hence private companies can no longer ask for a consumer's Aadhaar details.
- Users no longer need to produce their Aadhaar number for procuring SIM cards
- The 12-digit unique identification number need not be produced at the time of school admissions or enrollment in exams of NEET, CBSE and UGC
- The linkage of Aadhaar and PAN remains mandatory. PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number issued to assessees by the Income Tax Department and is mandatory for filing income tax returns.
- The court also asserted that Aadhaar card will not be provided to illegal migrants.
- The apex court asked the central government to introduce a strong data protection law as soon as possible.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A K Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan passed the landmark verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling Act.
The judgement was passed with a 4:1 majority with Justice D Y Chandrachud's having a dissenting view. He stated that Aadhaar may possibly lead to profiling of voters.
Justice AK Sikri read out the verdict and stated that Aadhaar empowers the marginalised section of the society and gives them an identity. "Aadhaar is also different from other ID proofs as it can't be duplicated," he stated.
"It is better to be unique than being the best and Aadhaar is unique," he added.
The Court further said that minimal demographic and biometric data of citizens are collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar enrolment and the Aadhaar number given to a person is unique and can't be provided to any other person.
The bench had reserved the judgement in the matter on May 10 after a long-standing hearing that went on for nearly 38 days, spanning over four months.
The challenges against Aadhaar had started even before the law came into existence in 2016. At least 31 petitions, including one by former High Court judge KS Puttaswamy, have been filed in the matter.
During the course of the hearing the court, on March 13, had indefinitely extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phone numbers.
The counsel for the petitioners, Shyam Divan, had raised concerns over the 'integrity of the process, integrity of the information and pervasive violation of fundamental rights. He had told the apex court that Aadhaar may cause the 'death of citizens' civil rights'.
While the government and the UIDAI have defended the scheme on every instance by stating that it ensures benefits are distributed among the population in a proper manner and also deters siphoning of funds.
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