By Arpita Biswas
In October 2015, a 3 judge bench of the Supreme Court of India referred challenges to the Aadhaar program to a constitution bench. One of the primary concerns of this petition was to decide on the existence of a fundamental right to privacy, which has since been upheld. Other similar petitions, concerned with the legitimacy of Aadhaar had been tagged with this petition. While the existence of a fundamental right has been upheld, challenges against the Aadhaar programme are yet to be adjudicated upon.
Today, the Supreme Court decided on a date to continue hearing these challenges.
The Attorney General started off by addressing the orders passed and the Data Protection Committee’s pending report. He stated that they would prefer to argue the case in March, as mentioned previously.
At this point, the Chief Justice suggested hearing the matter in January.
Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam reiterated that 8 interim orders, related to Aadhaar linking, had been passed. He stated that if the hearing was to be held at a later date, the voluntary nature of such linking and a lack of compulsion had to be guaranteed.
Senior Advocate CA Sundaram appearing for the State of Maharashtra stated that regardless of an interim order or a final order, the case would still have to be argued. He also stated that the hearing should be held soon, since the matter had been in Court for a while.
The Chief Justice stated that a Constitution Bench would be constituted and the matter would be heard in the last week of November, 2017.
Update: The deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts is the 31st of December and the deadline for linking with mobile phones is the 6th of March. Contrary to media reports, this deadline has not been extended.
In the event that the petition is not heard in November, the Court may issue interim orders to stay such linkings.
Arpita Biswas is a Programme Officer at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi