Five-judge Constitution bench to hear Aadhaar pleas on Jul 18-19

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There seems to be a fair chance the bench will refer the issue to a larger bench, given that only two days have been set aside for the hearing later this month.

Last week, a three-judge bench refused to pass any interim order and said the issue had to be decided only by the Constitution bench.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan and Attorney General for India KK Venugopal mentioned the matter today before Chief Justice JS Khehar.

The apex court was hearing three petitions challenging the governments notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.

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The petition will be primarily whether the scheme that requires the parting of biometric details of citizens to access welfare and benefits, is a violation of their right.

During the hearing, Mr. Venugopal highlighted two judgments of the court - M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh of 1954 and 1963, respectively, both of which had held that Article 21of the Constitution, including the right to privacy, was subject to reasonable restrictions.

The question on the validity of Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of whether privacy was fundamental right was referred to the constitution bench in October 2015. Hence a five judge bench can not hear the matter, he also said.

On June 10, the Supreme Court had ruled that from July 1 onward, every person eligible to obtain Aadhaar card must quote their Aadhaar number or their Aadhaar Enrolment ID number for filing of Income Tax Returns as well as for applications for Permanent Account Number (PAN). It said about 115 crore people had already been issued Aadhaar card and by this method lakhs of fake ration cardholders had been eliminated and Rs. 56,000 crore had been saved.

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