Aadhaar not mandatory, reiterates HC

Only 67pc JK population enrolled, what about the rest, court asks govt

Srinagar: Reiterating its earlier observation that procurement of Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory until apex court decides the issue, the J&K High Court has sought government’s reply within a week about of the fate of 33 percent population yet to be enrolled in J&K where Aadhaar enrollment centers in the state have been closed.

The direction by a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and D S Thakur followed perusal of an affidavit filed by PIL petitioner, advocate Syed Musaib, highlighting that the total percentage of individuals enrolled with Aadhaar system was only 67%, the lowest enrollment among all states in India.

Musaib also submitted that Aadhaar enrollment centers in the state have already been closed and as such remaining 33 percent of the population has no scope or facility of getting enrolled with Aadhaar system.

Confronted with the position, Additional Advocate General, representing the government, sought week’s time to respond which was granted by the high court.

“Meanwhile, the observations as made by this court on 4.10.16 (that Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory until Supreme Court decided the issue finally) shall remain in operation,” the court said.

Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number issued by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), a government of India agency which was established by the Planning Commission in 2009.

In November last year, the High Court quashed a government order, making Aadhaar card mandatory for its employees for drawing various entitlements including the salary.

“From the perusal of the Supreme Court order dated 15-10-2015, it is evident that matter was referred to the constitution bench for final hearing, making it clear that Aadhaar card scheme is voluntary and cannot be made mandatory till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court in one way or the other,” the high court said and asked the government to “strictly” follow the apex court’s interim orders from 29 March 2013.

“It is beyond doubt that government order issued cannot all be sustained as it is in violation of the interim orders passed by the Supreme Court,” the division bench had said and quashed the government order (No. 35-F of 2016 dated 10-2-2016) with a liberty to the administration to issue a fresh order in compliance with the interim orders passed by the apex court relating to foods grains, cooking fuel such as kerosene and for the purpose of the LPG distribution scheme.

The petitioner has submitted in the PIL that the government order suffers from infirmity with respect to the Constitution as people in the state are forced to disclose private information under the cloak of the Aadhaar scheme. Accordingly, he had sought directions from the High Court to quash the order and direct the administration not to make possession of the Aadhaar card mandatory for any benefits due to a citizen.