New Delhi, Feb 8: The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear to the Centre that no person should be denied social security benefits for non possession of Aadhaar card and the benefits should continue to be extended to them on he basis of other forms of identity.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Kanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan made this oral observation to the Attorney General KK Venugopal after senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners complained that even today social security benefits are being denied to those who did not possess Aadhaar.
The AG said the government had already extended till March 31 for possession of Aadhaar and had made it clear that no one would be denied the benefits.
Sibal, however, quoted a news report that people below the poverty line without Aadhaar are denied basic needs such as food and adequate nutrition; mid-day meals in school; widows pension etc.
He wanted the court to pass an interim order to ensure that such benefits are not denied to them. Sibal referred to the December 19, 2017 note issued by the Cabinet Secretary that Ministries and departments should put in place alternate mechanism so that basic needs are not denied to the people.
He said till the mechanism is put in place, the court must pass an order to extend the benefits to those without Aadhaar. Sibal continued his tirade against the Aadhaar law and said it violated fundamental right to privacy of the individual.
Justice Chandrachud told the Attorney General and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the government must ensure that bonafide citizens without Aadhaar are not denied the benefits. They should be extended the benefits based on ration card, voter id card or other identities.
Justice Sikri told the AG that most of the people below the poverty line are not aware that they can show alternate identity and steps must be taken by the government to make these people aware that they can use other forms of identity as well to avail the benefits.
Mehta informed the court that about 96 per cent of the people in the country had obtained Aadhaar card and only 4 per cent had not obtained Aadhaar. Both the AG and ASG assured the court that no citizen would be denied the benefit for lack of Aadhaar and asked the court not to pass any interim order.
The CJI said, “We are not going to pass any interim order in view of the AG’s submissions.” Arguments will continue on February 13.