A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will hear on June 9 a batch of review petitions challenging the top court’s September 2018 verdict upholding the validity of Aadhaar, the unique identity number assigned to people resident in the country .
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde will decide the review petitions in chambers.
In its judgment on September 26, 2018, the top court had by a 4-1 majority affirmed the constitutionality of the 12-digit unique identity scheme and the Aadhaar Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services Act, 2016 (Aadhaar Act).
The court held that Aadhaar would be mandatory for accessing social welfare schemes, but it cannot be forced on people for opening bank accounts or for mobile and internet connection.
The Aadhaar scheme was first challenged in the Supreme Court in 2012 on the grounds that it lacked statutory backing and invaded the right to privacy.
Parliament later introduced the Aadhaar Act in 2016 to give it legal backing. The Aadhaar Act itself was then challenged before the apex court on the grounds that it was passed as a money bill, thereby circumventing the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha.
A money bill, according to Article 110 of the Constitution, is a bill which contains only provisions relating to taxation, borrowing of money by the government, appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India and expenditure from or to the Consolidated Fund of India.
A money bill originates in the Lok Sabha and once passed by the lower house by a simple majority, is sent to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations. The recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha on money bills are not binding on the Lok Sabha.
When the challenge to the Aadhaar Act was being heard, a constitutional question came up – whether or not right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution?
A 9-judge bench of Supreme Court heard this issue and gave a unanimous verdict in August 2017 declaring privacy a fundamental right, being a facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
More than a year later, a five-judge bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra delivered its judgment, upholding the validity of Aadhaar saying it saying it involved “parting with minimal information” to fulfil the “larger public interest” of the marginalized and the poor, who can use it to obtain government benefits and subsidies, an argument which was strongly put forward by the central government in defence of the unique identity number.
The sole dissenting judge, justice DY Chandrachud, said the Aadhaar Act could not have been passed as a money bill, calling it a “fraud on the Constitution”.
This issue of whether certain laws including Aadhaar Act could have been passed as a money bill is to be heard by another seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a separate case.