Centre opposes contempt plea in Supreme Court, says Aadhaar not mandatory

Government on Thursday opposed in the Supreme Court a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against it, the 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.

New Delhi: Government on Thursday opposed in the Supreme Court a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against it, the 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 the states and concerned authorities not to make Aadhaar cards, issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), mandatory for availing various schemes, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told a three-judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar.

The government said that persons, having Aadhaar cards, were being asked to provide it to authorites but this was optional, she told the bench that also comprised Justices S A Bobde and C Nagappan.

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.

"In the meantime, it has been brought to the notice that the Aadhaar identification (card) is being insisted upon by various authorities. We are not going into the specific instances...

"We expect that the Union of India (UOI) and states and all their functionaries shall adhere to the order dated September 23, 2013," the court had said.

Prior to this, the bench had said, "no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory...".

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.

Earlier, the court had said Aadhaar will not be mandatory and a person, who does not have Aadhaar, should not suffer in availing of government benefits and services like gas connections, vehicle registration, scholarships, marriage registration and provident fund.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre not to issue

Aadhaar cards to illegal immigrants as it would legitimise their stay.

"The scheme is complete infraction of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty). The government claims that the scheme is voluntary but it is not so," senior advocate Anil Divan, arguing for Justice (retd) K S Puttaswamy, former judge of Karnataka High Court who has filed one of the PILs, said.

"Aadhaar is being made mandatory for purposes like registration of marriages and others. Maharashtra government has recently said no marriage will be registered if parties don't have Aadhaar cards," Divan said.

Justice Puttaswamy, in his PIL, has also sought a stay on the implementation of the scheme.

Making Aadhaar mandatory for various purposes raises questions over the government's authority to implement such schemes, the plea had said, adding that it also highlighted "the perils of the manner of its implementation".

The Centre had said that the consent of an individual was indispensable for Aadhaar and it has been launched to "promote inclusion and benefits of the marginalised sections of the society that has no formal identity proof." 

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