The ongoing Aadhaar hearings resulted in some small solace for Indians, taking the form of an extension on the deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts, phone numbers and a few other items. However, the Supreme Court order extending the deadline exempted Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act from this extension.
Section 7 of the Aadhaar pertains to government welfare schemes and essential services like LPG and rations. By allowing Section 7 to stand as is, the SC decision has almost no impact on the state of Aadhaar today. As noted in a previous report, the court’s interim order directly affects the constitutional rights of the people.
SFLC.in, a well-respected organisation comprised of volunteer team that includes lawyers and engineers, has been fighting against the violation of rights that Aadhaar in its current form represents. The organisation has now issued a statement on the Supreme Court decision to not exempt Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act from its interim order to postpone Aadhaar-linking deadlines.
The entire statement is as follows:
It is highly disappointing that the Supreme Court has chosen to exempt certain schemes and benefits i.e. those linked to Aadhaar under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act from the ambit of its interim order extending linking deadlines until the disposal of litigations.
So far, Aadhaar has been made a mandatory prerequisite to avail roughly 139 Central and State Government schemes (including subsidies for basic necessities like PDS and LPG), and a vast majority of Government notifications in this regard were issued under Section 7. By exempting schemes falling under Section 7 from its interim order, the Supreme Court has validated the Government's intention to deny countless residents access to essential benefits and services merely for want of Aadhaar.
If there is a logic to this exemption, we don't see it. No real explanations were offered either by the respondents who requested for the exemption or the Bench that granted it. Considering how the very idea behind extending Aadhaar deadlines was to spare residents from being forced into a system whose legal validity is undetermined, the decision to exclude such a large cluster of schemes and benefits catering to a very large segment of India's population is perplexing to say the least. As a direct consequence of the exclusion, millions of resident beneficiaries will now be forced to give up their biometric and demographic detail to a centralised database with unproven infrastructures, thus exposing them to cybersecurity risks and undue surveillance.