Is govt not entitled to seek ID proof from citizens, asks Supreme Court
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked if the government was not entitled to seek proof of identity from citizens if their entitlement to certain benefits were dependent upon their identities.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also said that idea behind the Aadhaar scheme could be the reason that people should have one ID card.
"If your entitlement depends on who you are, then can the government not require proof on that count? Is it not a reasonable condition," a bench, which also comprised Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, asked.
The bench, hearing pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the enabling 2016 law, said, "even if entitlement is beyond dispute, there has to be minimal way of proving who you are". "A condition is unconstitutional if it requires you to relinquish a constitutional right," the bench said.
The observations came after it was argued that the primary status of a person is that of a citizen and not an Aadhaar card holder. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the West Bengal government, said the proof of identity has to be linked with the status of the person which entitles him or her for the benefit and moreover, the citizens must have the choice to prove their identity.
He then referred to the example of a woman entitled for widow pension, and said it was her status which enabled her to get the benefit and not the identity, and the State cannot insist that the identity has to be proved through Aadhaar only. "I can have different ways of proving my identity as a citizen. There are various ways of establishing identity. Aadhaar does not establish my status," Sibal said, adding that the biggest identity is the identity as the citizens. On the issue of some people having multiple passports and ration cards, the senior advocate said there were laws to deal with law-breakers and it does not mean that the State will make a statute having unconstitutional provisions to deal with law abiding citizens.
Sibal termed the Aadhaar case as "the most important case since independence" as it would decide the future course to be adopted by the nation.
"The judgment in this case will decide the course that this country takes. Will we live in a country where there is choice - or do we live in a country where the State is the arbiter of choice," he said.