SC to set up five-judge Constitution bench to hear Aadhaar pleas

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New Delhi, Oct 30: The Supreme Court on Monday said to set up a five-judge Constitution bench to continue hearing in the Aadhaar case. Beginning from the last week of November, the Constitution bench will hear a clutch of petitions challenging the government's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory to avail welfare scheme benefits. Meanwhile, the Centre filed an affidavit in the court defending Aadhaar and rubbishing charges against it.

Earlier today, the court pulled up West Bengal government for challenging the Centre in an Aahdaar-related case. An apex court bench hearing the petition said, 'In a federal structure, how can a state file plea challenging Parliament's mandate? We know it is a matter which needs consideration but you satisfy us how a state can challenge it?'

The bench said that the Centre's move can be challenged by an individual but not by states. It, instead, asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to submit a plea before it as an individual.   'Let Mamta Banerjee come and file. We will entertain her as an individual,' it said.

Recently, a nine-judge Constitution bench had held that the Right of Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had raised the issue that the scheme was violative of privacy rights.

Senior advocates Gopal Subramanium and Shyam Divan, appearing for those opposing the Aadhaar scheme, had sought an urgent hearing on the petitions.

The Centre had on October 25 told the apex court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail the benefits of the government schemes has been extended till March 31 next year for those who do not have the 12-digit biometric identification number and were willing to have it.

The petitioners had termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as illegal and unconstitutional and strongly objected to the CBSE's move to make it mandatory for students to appear for exams.

Divan, appearing for some of the petitioners, had earlier contended that final hearing in the main Aadhaar matter, which is pending before the apex court, was necessary as the government 'cannot compel' citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or mobile numbers.

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