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Aadhaar Verdict: SC upholds constitutional validity; UIDAI mandatory for IT returns, not required for mobile connections | Highlights

The top court said Aadhaar is serving much bigger public interest and Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best.

Reported by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Updated: September 26, 2018 14:31 IST ]
Aadhaar Verdict LIVE: SC upholds constitutional validity;
Image Source : FILE/PTI

Aadhaar Verdict LIVE: SC upholds constitutional validity; UIDAI mandatory for IT returns, not required for mobile connections

In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme and said that nothing in Aadhaar Act that violates right to privacy of individual.

The apex court's five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said Aadhaar is meant to help benefits reach the marginalised sections of the society and takes into account the dignity of people not only from personal but also from community point of view.

The top court said Aadhaar is serving much bigger public interest and Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best.

There are three sets of judgements being pronounced on the issue. The first of the three verdicts was pronounced by Justice AK Sikri who wrote the judgement for himself, CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar. Justice Chandrachud  and Justice A Bhushan have authored their individual judgements in the matter. The judgement pronounced by Justice Sikri is the majority verdict.

Read full SC verdict on Aadhaar here

Here are the highlights of SC verdict on Aadhaar: 

Watch live coverage on India TV: 

Reactions on the judgement

01:16 pm: I am very happy with the judgement. It is a landmark and remarkable judgement: Attorney general KK Venugopal to ANI

01:00 pm: I think on the whole it is a good judgement. Though personally, I am happy with Justice Chandrachud's judgement striking it down on the ground that it bothers right to privacy: Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee on Aadhaar verdict

12:08 pm: Congress welcomes verdict

Congress has welcomed the Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act which allows any private entity to demand the unique identity document from citizens for the purpose of identification.

"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act. Private entities are no longer allowed to use Aadhaar for verification purposes," the party said in a tweet. 

In its landmark judgement, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar document but said it will not be required for opening bank accounts, admissions in schools or for getting mobile connections.

11:55 am: TMC welcomes verdict

The Trinamool Congress has hailed the Supreme Court judgement which struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act which allowed corporate entities to access its data. 

The Supreme Court has declared the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme constitutionally valid.

"SC strikes down section 57 of Aadhaar Act, 2016. So you don't need to give your Aadhaar to private bodies like banks, schools, mobile companies. Trinamool and @mamataofficial fought hard for this," the party said in a tweet. 

Highlights of Justice Bhushan's judgement

12:32 pm: Seeking biometric details does not violate right to privacy, says Justice Bhushan

12:30 pm: The decision of terming Aadhaar Act as Money Bill was not open to judicial review: Bhushan

12:30 pm: Bhushan also agrees with the view that there was no need to seed Aadhaar with mobile numbers. 

12:30 pm: Aadhaar Act does not create a framework for surveillance, says Justice Bhushan

12:30 pm: An individual reveals lot of demographic information for other ID proofs, hence, revealing it not violative of right to privacy: Bhushan

12:21 pm: Justice Bhushan says state has given sufficient reasons to uphold Sec 7 of Aadhaar Act which deals with grant of subsidies, welfare benefits. 

12:21 pm: Government and UIDAI are empowered to cure defects in Aadhaar scheme: Justice Bhushan

12:18 pm: No material placed to indicate there has been considerable denial of benefits of subsidies to deserving persons: Justice Bhushan

12:17 pm: Justice Bhushan says biometric data contains certain personal information of citizens and the breach, if any, has to be ascertained.

Highlights of Justice Chandrachud's judgement

12:17 pm: In the current form Aadhaar Act cannot be held to be constitutional, says Justice Chandrachud

12:17 pm: Justice Chandrachud favours deletion of consumers' Aadhaar data by mobile service providers. 

12:15 pm: Justice Ashok Bhushan concurs with the majority verdict of CJI, Justices Sikri and Khanwilkar.

12:12 pm: Justice Chandrachud: Enactment of Aadhaar Act does not save the Aadhaar scheme of the Centre.

12:12 pm: Mobile phone has become important feature of life and its seeding with Aadhaar poses grave threat to privacy, liberty, autonomy: Chandrachud.

12:11 pm: While Parliament possesses right to make law, the absence of protection leads to violation of various rights: Chandrachud. 

12:09 pm: Mandating Aadhaar for benefits and services under Section 7 would lead to a situation in which citizens will not be able to live without Aadhaar. Hence, Section 7 arbitrary and unconstitutional: Justice Chandrachud 

12:00 pm: Allowing private players to use Aadhaar will lead to profiling which could be used in ascertaining political views etc of citizens: Justice Chandrachud

11:59 pm: Constitutional guarantees cannot be left to risks posed by technological advancements: Justice Chandrachud

11:58 pm: Absence of independent regulatory framework compromises data protection. Aadhaar Act therefore cannot pass tests under Article 14: Justice Chandrachud

11:53 am: Passing of bill as money bill when it does not qualify as a money bill is a fraud on Constitution, violates Basic Structure, DY Chandrachud dissents.

11:46 am: Justice DY Chandrachud dissents on Aadhaar Act as money bill. Holds Aadhaar Act cannot be treated as Money bill. Justice Chandrachud  and Justice A Bhushan have authored their individual judgements in the matter.

11:39 am: The decision to treat a bill as a money bill is amenable to judicial review, Justice Chandrachud concurs with Justice Sikri on that aspect.

Highlights of majority verdict read by Justice Sikri

11:34 am: Justice Sikri concludes pronouncement of majority judgement; Justice DY Chandrachud starts pronouncement of his judgement.

11:33 am: Supreme Court says, "the government needs to ensure that illegal migrants do not get Aadhaar card"

11:33 am: Supreme Court says, "Education has taken us from thumb impression to signature, now technology has taken us from signature to thumb impression." 

11:33 am: Supreme Court upholds Section 139AA mandating linkage with PAN.

11:31 am: Aadhaar cannot be mandated for opening of bank accounts: SC

11:31 am: Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for mobile connections; DoT notification to that effect unconstitutional: SC

11:30 am: Aadhaar Act can be passed as Money Bill, hold Supreme Court; Turns down challenge on the ground that it could not have been classified as a Money bill.

11:27 am: Section 59 of Aadhaar Act valid, says Supreme Court. 

11:27 am: Section 33(1) read down; Individual should be given opportunity of hearing: SC 

11:27 am: Section 33(2) - officer should be above rank of Joint Secy 

11:27 am: Section 47 should include provision for individual to file complaint.

11:27 am: SC bench strikes down the national security exception under the Aadhaar Act.

11:24 am: School admissions not a benefit under Section 7, Aadhaar cannot be mandated for the same, Supreme Court. 

11:24 am: Benefits and services under Section 7 should be of the nature of welfare schemes targeted at a particular deprived community.  CBSE, NEET etc cannot mandate Aadhaar.

11:23 am: Supreme Court turns down argument on exclusion. Lot of people who will benefit due to inclusion cannot be denied due to exclusion of few; Can't throw baby out with bathwater: Supreme Court

11:20 am: Breaking: SC declares Aadhaar scheme as Constitutionally valid

11:19 am: Justice AK Sikri asks Centre to "introduce strong data protection law as soon as possible". Justice Sikri is reading the judgement authored by him on behalf of himself, CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar. Justice Chandrachud and Justice A Bhushan have written their individual opinions

11:17 am: Section 57 of Aadhaar Act which enables corporate bodies to seek authentication is unconstitutional: Supreme Court

11:15 am: Supreme Court satisfied that there is sufficient defence mechanism for authentication. Some provisions relating to authentication are however struck down. Section 33(2) of Aadhaar Act struck down. The section deals with sharing of biometreic data. 

11:11 am: The Justice said attack on Aadhaar by petitioners is based on violation of rights under the Constitution, will lead to a surveillance State.

11:11 am: He said there has been minimal demographic and biometric data collected by UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment. 

11:08 am: Verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar: Justice AK Sikri says, "Aadhaar empowers the marginalised section of the society and gives them an identity, Aadhaar is also different from other ID proofs as it can't be duplicated"

11:07 am: Justice AK Sikri while reading out verdict in Supreme Court on constitutional validity of Aadhaar, says, "It is better to be unique than to be best."

11:01 am: Justice AK Sikri has authored the judgement on behalf of him, CJI and Justice Khanwilkar. Justice Chandrachud and Justice A Bhushan have written their individual opinions

11:00 am: Supreme Court Justice Sikri while reading out verdict on constitutional validity of Aadhaar: There is a fundamental difference between Aadhaar card and identity. Once the bio-metric information is stored, it remains in the system

10:55 am: Supreme Court's Justice Sikri begins reading out verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar

10:54 am: The apex court to deliver its crucial verdict on Aadhaar shortly. 

10:20 am: The judgement will have a far reaching effect because Aadhaar is relevant for a large no. of subsidies. It is also relevant to plug loot and waste that has happened. I hope the judgement is in favour of Aadhaar: Mukul Rohatgi, as AG he represented the government in Aadhaar case

10:20 am: Data protection is very important and government has made it clear that it will protect the data. A law is also coming in this regard: Mukul Rohatgi, as AG he represented the government in Aadhaar case

Key questions before Supreme Court bench: 

#Is the Aadhaar Act valid, given that the way it was passed?

#Is the Aadhaar project an attack on a person’s privacy, now a fundamental right after a Supreme Court ruling that arose out of the Aadhaar case itself?

#Does the government have the right to demand that every person authenticate his or her identity through biometric or demographic information with just one proof — a unique identification number — to make sure that government benefits reach their intended targets? Or do Indian citizens have the right to identify themselves using, instead, any of several other documents issued to them by the government?

Watch video: 

Also read | Aadhaar myth buster: UIDAI answers all your concerns through FAQs

Arguments 

#Validity

The first concern raised against Aadhaar was the validity of legislation enabling it. UIDAI was first set up in 2009 through an executive order and lacked a legislative base for seven years. In 2012, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, Justice K S Puttaswamy, challenged Aadhaar. 

In 2016 the government passed a law giving Aadhaar legislative sanction. But the government termed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, a Money Bill during the Budget Session in 2016, and passed it in Lok Sabha. Money Bills do not need ratification by Rajya Sabha, where the government was in minority. Former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh challenged the Money Bill route used for Aaadhar, and his case was clubbed with a number of petitions against Aadhaar.

#Privacy

The argument that Aadhaar violated a citizen's right to privacy surfaced during the apex court's proceedings in 2016, prompting a separate deliberation by a Constitution Bench. The government argued that it was not clear whether the Constitution granted privacy as a fundamental right.  

About a year later, the Constitution Bench ruled that that privacy is indeed a fundamental right guaranteed and protected by the Constitution. 

After the privacy judgment, more petitions were filed to be impleaded with the pending cases against Aadhaar. The Aadhaar case was referred to a three-judge Bench and finally, to a five-judge Constitution Bench. It heard arguments for 38 days between January and May.

Also read | Right to Privacy a fundamental right, rules SC: Who said what on the judgement

Government's arguments

During the arguments, the Centre had strongly defended its decision to seed Aadhaar numbers with mobile phones, telling the top court that it could have been hauled up for contempt if the verification of mobile users was not undertaken by it.

However, the court had said that the government had misinterpreted its order and used it as a "tool" to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users.

Also read | Never directed mandatory Aadhaar-mobile number linkage, says Supreme Court

The court had also not agreed prima facie with the government's contention that the Aadhaar law was correctly termed as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker as it dealt with "targeted delivery of subsidies" for which funds came from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The counsel for one of the petitioners had termed Aadhaar as "an electronic leash" and said that the government could completely destroy an individual by "switching off" the 12-digit unique identifier number.

On the other hand, the Centre had said that the law was valid and allowed minimal invasion to ensure the right to life of millions of Indians by ensuring seamless delivery of subsidies, benefits and services to the poorest of poor. 

Also read | Supreme Court 'not sure' if Aadhaar is best model to accord benefits of social welfare schemes

Second-longest oral hearing in SC 

With 31 petitions and 38 days of hearing in first five months of this year, this matter became the "second longest" one in terms of days of hearing after the historic Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973.

The Kesavananda Bharati case, which was heard by a 13-judge bench, by a majority of 7:6 had propounded the doctrine of the 'Basic Structure and of the Constitution'. It had held that the amendments which may affect this structure were subject to judicial review.

A battery of senior lawyers, including Shyam Divan, Gopal Subramaniam, Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Arvind Datar, KV Vishwanath, Anand Grover, Sajan Poovayya and a few others, had argued on behalf of the petitioners opposing the Aadhaar Scheme on various grounds.

Besides the former HC judge, the top lawyers argued for petitioners, who included Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, social activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Nachiket Udupa and CPI leader Binoy Visman.

The Centre, the Unique Identificaiton Authority of India (UIDAI), the governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat and the RBI had argued in favour of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits And Services) Act, 2016 and were represented by the Attorney General, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Jayant Bhushan and lawyer Zoheb Hossain.

Also read | 2016 Aadhaar law can't cure right to privacy invasion since 2009: Supreme Court told

The timeline of UIDAI - Aadhaar

Govt executive order, 2009-10

January 28, 2009: Planning Commission notification on UIDAI

September 2010: Programme launched in rural Maharashtra
2010-2011: National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 introduced; later referred to the Standing Committee on Finance, whose report flags issues of privacy, sensitive information etc

First petitions in Court, 2012-13

November 30, 2012: First notice from Supreme Court following several PILs, with retired Justice KS Puttaswamy as the lead petitioner
September 23, 2013: Two-judge Bench orders all matters be heard
November 26, 2013: Bench orders that all states and Union Territories be impleaded as respondents

Legislation, 2016

March 3, 2016: Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill 2016 introduced in Lok Sabha; later passed as Money Bill
May 10: Congress leader Jairam Ramesh moves SC challenging passage as Money Bill
October 21: SG Vombatkere vs Union of India challenges validity of Aadhaar Act

Linkage rules, 2017

March 31: Government introduces Section 139AA to Income-Tax Act, making Aadhaar mandatory for PAN applications, filing returns
June 1: Aadhaar made mandatory for opening and maintaining bank accounts, for transactions of Rs 50,000 or more etc
June 9: Two-judge Bench upholds I-T Act Section 139AA; however, for those without Aadhaar card holders, PAN cards not to be treated as invalid for time being

Privacy and after, 2017-18

August 24, 2017: Nine-judge Bench rules that right to privacy is a fundamental right
January 17, 2018: Five-judge Bench begins hearing Aadhaar case
May 10: SC reserves verdict

(With inputs from PTI)

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