The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory by the government for central welfare schemes.
The apex court, however, said that the government cannot be stopped from linking the 12-digit identification number to the opening of bank accounts or filing of tax returns.
This was stated by a bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan had challenged a spare of orders issued by the government making Aadhaar mandatory to access benefits under various schemes.
The top court also said that while a seven-judge bench needs to be set up to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar, but that is not possible at this time.
Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the Aadhaar card may become the only identity card in future, and will be mandatory for filing of Income Tax returns to curb tax evasion and frauds.
Replying to the debate on the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said that Aadhaar may become the only card in future replacing all other types of identity cards such as Voter ID and PAN cards.
The government has also made the Aadhaar mandatory for anyone seeking to obtain or renew a driver’s license, a new telephone number as well as for existing connections to stay operational after February 2018.
In a controversial decision, it has also been mandated for children to get their mid-day meals and for 11 other government schemes.
However, at the same time, the government said that nobody will be deprived of benefits because they don’t have an Aadhaar card. It clarified that until an Aadhaar number is assigned to an individual, they can use alternate means of identification to receive benefits linked to the card.
The Centre also directed departments to provide Aadhaar enrolment facilities to beneficiaries under Regulation 12 of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations 2016.
The critics of Aadhaar claim that the government is violating a Supreme Court order of October 2015 which specified that the Universal Identification Document cannot be made mandatory for government schemes.