HC continues stay on Aadhaar enabled attendance system in govt offices

The J&K High Court today continued with its stay order on the government regulation regarding installation of Aadhaar Enabled Biometric System (AEBAS) in government offices for monitoring attendance of state sector employees in their offices.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Tashi Rabstan continued stay on government order with regard to installation of AEBAS in the State government departments to ensure attendance of employees in their respective departments and sought response from the administration within four weeks.

The order followed a government plea to do away with the stay to ensure 100 percent attendance of the employees, especially in the current situation.

The High Court had previously stayed a government order making an Aadhaar card mandatory for its employees to draw various entitlements including salary for the month of March and onwards.

Referring to Supreme Court of India’s order dated 15 October last year, a division bench of the court said that the apex court has made possession of Aadhaar card voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter was decided.

“Prima facie, it appears that government order (No. 35-F of 2016) has made possession of Aadhaar card mandatory,” the bench said and issued a notice to government seeking its reply to contentions made in the public interest litigation (PIL) that the February 10 order by Commissioner Secretary Finance was in violation of the apex court’s directions.

“Subject to objections and till next date before the Bench, the operation of the government order (No 35 of 2016) dated 10 February 2016 is stayed,” the division bench added.

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.

The highest court has also referred the petitions, challenging possession of Aadhaar to be mandatory, to a Constitutional Bench for deciding the issue of right of privacy, on whether it forms a part of fundamental rights or not.

It is mentionable that on 10th of February 2016, the State government had passed an order No. 35-F of 2016 saying that government employees, pensioners and various other people, who were drawing their legal entitlements from the government, have to get themselves enrolled in Aadhaar system to be able to draw their entitlements.

Expressing concern about the irregular attendance of a section of employees, the Chief Secretary had last time directed the administrative secretaries and heads of departments to ensure attendance of all the employees working in their respective departments and subordinate offices without fail.