He told PTI that the West Bengal had challenged the Centre's provision which said that nobody would be able to avail social welfare schemes without an Aadhaar card number.
Attorney general K K Venugopal informed a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud on Wednesday that the Centre has made a decision to extend till March 31 the December 31 deadline for mandatory Aadhaar for availing benefits under government-run social welfare schemes, including ration under the public distribution system. The extension is applicable to those who do not possess the card, but are willing to enrol.
"Final hearing of the matter is necessary. They cannot compel us to link Aadhaar", he said, adding "they can make a statement that they will not take coercive action against those who don't want to link Aadhaar". These include services provided by the government, such as public distribution systems, to essentially optional private services such as mobile phone connections. The Aadhaar card even bore a picture of the popular Hindu god, addressed him as the son of "Pawan" and even displayed a mobile number and thumbprint.
If you have been rushing to get your 12-digit Aadhaar to avail benefits of various government schemes, this news is for you.
The petitioners said that although the court's order allowed the Centre to link Aadhaar with schemes such as PDS and MGNREGA and other welfare schemes, the ambit has been made wide without informing the court.
While Venugopal said he was giving a verbal assurance, senior lawyers such as Shyam Divan and Arvind Datar wanted a written assurance which Venugopal refused to give. Venugopal said that he would come back and respond to the clarification sought by the court on Monday. "The Attorney-General had agreed to be ready for hearing in November", Divan pleaded. "And if the need is to make amendments to the IT Act to allow for better and more stringent protection of an individual's rights, we are willing to do so", he added. At a meeting on October 16, the committee had asked its various working groups "to provide specific comments/amendments on clauses of the draft Data Protection Bill", Venugopal said.
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