#AadhaarVerdict: SC upholds constitutional validity of Aadhaar, with conditions

Supreme Court to Pronounce Verdict in Aadhaar Case on Wednesday

The apex court's five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said Aadhaar is meant to help benefits reach marginalised sections of society and takes into account the dignity of people not only from the personal but also from the community point of view. Justice AK Sikri while reading the judgement upheld the validity of the Aadhaar but struck down a few provisions, including Section 57.

The court also struck down a notification issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that made Aadhaar mandatory for all e-kyc.

But it permitted the government to demand a 12-digit Aadhaar number when citizens are registering tax file numbers or filing annual returns.

In fact, that was the most relevant part of the judgement for most Indians - many of whom had expressed unwillingness to link their mobile phone connections to the scheme. Private companies can not force you to link your Aadhaar as the SC read down Section 57 of the Act which allowed the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any objective.

Providing Aadhaar details can not be compulsory for opening a bank account, establishing a mobile phone connection or enrolling a child in school, the court's majority opinion said.

Aadhaar is not compulsory for school admissions and no child can be denied benefits of any schemes for not producing Aadhaar. "Aadhaar can't also be insisted for admission to schools". However, to apply for any government benefits, the enrolment can be done with the consent of parents, and the enrolment number can be asked for.

He was quick to wave aside concerns of any information leaks, stating that "Aadhaar in itself doesn't pose any privacy issue because it's just a bio ID verification scheme".

"It is better to be unique than to be best", he added. It is now mandatory for MGNREGA, PDS and LPG subsidies.

The top court barred private companies from accessing the data and also directed that schools, banks and telecom companies cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for availing their services.

The hearing of the Aadhaar case was one of the longest in the Supreme Court, second only to the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case. Previously in January 2018, a five-judge bench of the apex court began a fresh hearing on the Aadhaar case which went on to become the second-longest running hearing in the history of the Supreme Court - spanning 38 working days and almost five months.

A dissenting judge on the five-judge bench, however, said the project "in its entirety is unconstitutional".

Several Aadhaar-linked hunger deaths have been reported across India, including in Jharkhand's Simdega district where an 11-year-old girl died of starvation last year, months after her family's ration card, similar to welfare coupons in the United States, was cancelled because they did not possess an Aadhaar number.

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