The verdict on a clutch of 27 petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar was reserved by the Supreme Court today, after a marathon hearing that stretched over nearly 4 months. Petitioners' advocate Udayaditya Banerjee told NDTV that they were expected a "good judgment, maybe in July or August".
- Hearing in the case started in January and went on for 38 days
- Keshavananda Bharti case of the 1970s went on for five months
- 27 petitions had challenged the Aadhaar programme in Supreme Court
Hearing in the case started in January and went on for 38 days - making it the second longest after the crucial Keshavananda Bharti case, which questioned if parliament's power to amend the Constitution was unlimited, to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights. The hearing went on for five months in 1973.
This time, a five-judge constitution bench -- headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra -- was examining an issue seen as considerably vital.
The court was examining the contention that the 12-digit Unique Identification number given out to 1.2 billion Indians, violates the Right to Privacy, which was named a fundamental right by the top court last year.
The government had made Aadhaar compulsory for a host of services and welfare measures, including bank accounts, PAN cards, cellphone services, passport and even driving licenses. It was made the over-arching proof of identity and residence, over-riding all other prior identity proofs.
The petitioners argued that Aadhaar -- built on a mammoth biometric database comprising fingerprints and iris scans -- cannot be made mandatory. They also contended that this huge database was open to compromise, citing a number of instances of data breach that had triggered a huge debate.
Arguing that the Aadhaar law impacts human life, the petitioners demanded that it be scrapped.
The Centre had defended Aadhaar on multiple grounds - the biggest being that it ensured proper distribution of benefits to millions and prevented siphoning of funds. Aadhaar data, government and Aadhaar authority UIADI contended, is safe and cannot be breached.
The UIADI had argued that petitions that Aadhaar be scrapped in favour of smart cards were a ploy. "They want smart card because institutions like Google don't want Aadhaar to succeed," the Aadhaar authority said.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come out in defence of Aadhaar, saying it represented the march of technology and those opposing it "have lagged behind in technology -- either they cannot understand or are purposely spreading lies".
In its initial hearings, that court had pushed back the deadline for Aadhaar linkage to bank accounts, passports and mobile phones by three months, and eventually announced an indefinite extension.
It also expressed concern over data leakage amid the huge controversy over the illegal use of Facebook data in the US elections. "The real apprehension is the data available can influence the electoral outcome of a country... whether democracy can survive if Aadhaar data is used to influence the electoral outcome," said Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of a five-judge bench.