"How can people think of the right to privacy when they are fighting for sustenance"? the Supreme Court said as it asked states and union territories to respond to petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar card and it being made mandatory for getting benefits of government's social welfare schemes.
The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the ground that it violates and transgresses individual rights of citizens.
A bench of justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde said the stand of state governments need to be considered while adjudicating the case on Aadhaar card.
The petitioners include Justice K Puttaswamy, former high court judge, seeking to restrain the Centre, Planning Commission and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) from issuing Aadhaar cards by way of an executive order of January 28, 2009.
"UIDAI alters the relationships between citizens and state which cannot be done even by framing law. It violates the right to privacy of individuals by collection all personal informations which can be misused," senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, contended.
He submitted data for Unique identification number are being collected by private individuals presenting grave risk to the privacy of citizens.
"It is an incursion and transgression in individual rights. It cannot be done even it is voluntary. It is contrary to fundamental rights granted under constitution," he said.
The bench, however, remarked that the issue cannot be seen only from privacy angle as food and water are more important than the right to privacy.
It said social circumstances have to be kept in mind while deciding these issues.
"It is a harsh reality. How can people think of the right to privacy when they are fighting for sustenance"? the bench said.
The apex court had in its interim order said Aadhaar card be not made mandatory for people for availing any government services and nobody should be deprived of any such facilities for want of the card.
The Centre, UIDAI and three oil PSUs--IOCL, BPCL and HPCL--had later on moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its earlier order that Aadhaar card is not mandatory and no person should suffer for want of it in getting the benefits of government schemes.
They submitted the interim order of the apex court has created "serious doubts, confusion and uncertainty" in the minds of citizens who have already enrolled for Aadhaar card to avail Direct Benefit Transfer for Liquefied Petroleum Gas Consumers (DBTL) scheme to get subsidised LPG cylinders.
DBTL has already been implemented and has been running successfully in many districts and the old system of subsidy has been stopped, the PSUs said in their applications.