New Delhi: The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict for Tuesday on Centre’s plea that petitions challenging government’s ambitious project to grant Aadhaar cards to all citizens be referred to a Constitutional bench. A three-judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said that it will take a decision on whether the questions raised by the Centre can be referred to a larger bench or not. “Whether the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India, in the light of express ratio to the contrary by an eight-judge bench in M P Sharma case and also by a six-judge bench of this court in Kharaksingh’s case,” one of the questions raised by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Centre, reads.
“If so, what are the contours of the Right to Privacy,” another question says. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, also appearing for the Centre, handed out the questions which may be referred to a larger bench for an authoritative pronouncement on Tuesday.
The ASG has also said that the larger bench judgment had earlier held that Right to Privacy is not a fundamental right. However, the “sub-sequent judgments by lesser Bench strength” have held that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and this is contrary to the larger bench decision. The bench also comprising comprising Justices S A Bobde and C Nagappan said that it will consider all these questions and pronounce the judgment on Tuesday.
Yesterday, the Centre had sought transfer of pleas against Aadhaar to larger bench, saying that a two-judge or a three- judge bench cannot decide it. Referring to pronouncements made in historic cases like A K Gopalan, Maneka Gandhi and bank nationalisation, the top law officer had said that inconsistencies with regard to interpretation of certain fundamental rights can only be ” squared up” by a larger bench.
Rohatgi had said that the apex court had long back held that privacy was not a fundamental right. However, later smaller benches of the court “wrongly” held that right to privacy was a fundamental right by reading it in Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution, he had said.
While urging that the matters be referred to a larger bench, the AG said this would not “eclipse the view held by the bench of eight and later six judges that privacy was not a fundamental right.” Earlier, the government had opposed a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against it, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and others for allegedly insisting on Aadhaar cards to grant benefits of various schemes to citizens, saying it was not mandatory.
In pursuance of earlier orders, the Centre has conveyed to states and concerned authorities not to make Aadhaar cards, issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), mandatory for availing various schemes, ASG Pinky Anand had told the court.
The bench is hearing a batch of pleas against decisions of some states to make Aadhaar cards compulsory for a range of activities including salary, provident fund disbursals, marriages and property registrations.
The government had also said that persons, having Aadhaar cards, were being asked to provide it to authorities but this was optional. Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Mathew Thomas, one of the PIL petitioners, had filed an application seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre and others, including RBI, and the Election Commission.
He had alleged that the government and others were in violation of earlier orders that had said that no person should be denied any benefit or suffer for not having Aadhaar cards.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)