New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said its constitution bench will start hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the Center's move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for availing various services and benefits of government welfare schemes from the last week of November.
A bench comprising chief justice Dipak Misra and justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said this after attorney general K.K. Venugopal told the court that the Center was ready to argue in the matter and that no interim order was required to be passed without hearing him in the case.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for one of the petitioners challenging the Centre's move, told the bench that the apex court had earlier passed several orders in the Aadhaar matter and said it was "purely a voluntary act", and there would not be any compulsion for the citizens to have the card to receive benefits of the government's schemes.
Senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, representing Maharashtra, argued that the matter should be heard and decided as soon as possible.
The court, after hearing the brief submissions, said it would set up a constitution bench to hear and decide the issue.
Recently, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had claimed it violated privacy rights.
Meanwhile, another bench of the court on Monday issued notice to the Center on a petition filed by an individual challenging the proposed linking of mobile phones with Aadhaar card.
A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan has asked the Center to file its response within four weeks.
The Center had on October 25 told the Supreme Court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to receive the benefits of government schemes has been extended till March 31, 2018 for those who do not have the 12-digit unique biometric identification number and were willing to enroll for it.
The attorney general had told the court that no coercive action would be taken against those who do not have the Aadhaar card but are willing to enroll for. He had said such people would not be denied the benefits of social welfare schemes till March 31.
In a note to the court, the government had said that "those who have Aadhaar are required to seed/link their Aadhaar with SIM card, with bank account, PAN card and other schemes where section 7 notifications have been issued".
"The government will be open for the deadline for linking Aadhaar to various programmes being extended for another three months till March 31, 2018 for those who do not have Aadhaar," the note had said.
Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as "illegal and unconstitutional".
They also objected to the CBSE's alleged move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for students appearing for examinations, a contention denied by the Center.
One of the counsel representing the petitioners had earlier said that final hearing in the main Aadhaar matter, which is pending before the apex court, was necessary as the government "cannot compel" citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or cell phone numbers.