Supreme Court of India declares Aadhaar as constitutionally valid

The Supreme Court of India said that the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, was constitutionally valid. However, a citizen’s rights could not be denied on the ground of lack of the unique ID.

The top court upheld linking PAN with Aadhaar, but set aside linking the unique ID with bank accounts and phone numbers. The judgment was delivered in three separate readings.

Justice Chandrachud, in a dissenting judgment, said the Aadhaar Act was liable to be struck down as being violative of Article 110. “Rajya Sabha should not have been bypassed,” he said, referring to the government of India passing the Aadhaar bill as a Money Bill in the Lok Sabha, where it had an absolute majority.

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The SC ruled that Aadhaar was not compulsory for school admissions and no child could be denied benefits of any scheme for not having Aadhaar number. “CBSE, NEET, UGC cannot make Aadhaar mandatory, also it is not compulsory for school admissions,” Justice AK Sikri, who wrote the majority verdict, said.

The five judge bench said that Aadhaar empowers the marginalised sections of society and gave them an identity and asked GoI  to introduce a robust data protection law as soon as possible. Justice Sikri struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act, which permits private entities to avail of Aadhaar data. He also said Aadhaar authentication data cannot be stored for more than six months.

“Minimal demographic and biometric data of citizens are collected by the UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment. Aadhaar number given to a person is unique and can’t go to any other person. Aadhaar identification is unparalleled,” Justice Sikri said in his opening remarks.

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In a separate judgment, Justice DY Chandrachud said allowing private players to use Aadhaar would lead to profiling, which could be used in ascertaining political views etc of citizens.

In his judgment, Justice Chandrachud said the Aadhaar bill should not have been passed as a Money Bill. “Passing of bill as Money bill when it does not qualify as a Money bill is a fraud on Constitution and violates its basic structure,” Chandrachud said. He also said the decision of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to treat a bill as Money Bill could be subject to judicial review.

The petitioners had, during the hearings, argued that the Act could act as a tool of mass surveillance on the state. The government of India has, in response, rebutted that Aadhaar will help weed out ghost beneficiaries of welfare schemes.

The Aadhaar hearing is the ‘second longest’ in terms of days of hearing after the Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973, which was heard by a 13-judge bench.

A five-judge bench, led by CJI Misra had earlier reserved its verdict on May 10 following a 38 year old hearing.

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