The Supreme Court on Monday observed that Aadhar card cannot stand in the way of citizens accessing the benefits of social welfare schemes of the government.

However, it remarked that the government can press for Aadhaar card for income-tax filings.

The court's oral observations came during a mentioning for an early date for hearing a batch of pending petitions questioning the Aadhaar scheme and privacy issues emanating from the fact that biological, personal and bank details of citizens are shared at a large-scale.

The court, however, did not commit to any specific dates, but did not agree for an out-of-turn hearing.

It's remarks is subsequent to the Lok Sabha passing the Finance Bill which makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing tax returns and getting a permanent account number (PAN).

In October 2015, the Supreme Court had extended the voluntary use of the card to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), all types of pensions schemes, employee provident fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana.

A Constitution Bench led by then Chief Justice of India H L Dattu had said that the use of the Aadhaar card was purely voluntary and not mandatory. With this, the Supreme Court had modified an August 11, 2015 order issued by its three-judge Bench restricting Aadhaar use to only PDS and LPG (cooking gas) distribution.

The Bench said the purely voluntary nature of the use of Aadhaar card to access public service will continue till the court takes a final decision on whether the Aadhaar scheme is an invasion on the right to privacy of a citizen.

The interim order had come after senior advocates Shyam Divan and Gopal Subramanium said the Aadhaar scheme was neither backed by law nor administrative decree.

“You have no document of authority, either from Parliament or administrative decision, to collect fingerprints of the citizenry,” Divan had argued that day for the petitioners.

The court had specifically asked Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the UIDAI, to make a statement in open court that “you will not insist till the matter is finally decided here or a legislation is introduced in Parliament''.

“No person will be denied benefits under any government scheme for want of Aadhaar card,” the A-G had affirmed then.

(The article was earlier published in The Hindu )