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Judges:-Seek larger bench for Aadhaar issue

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The Union government on Friday strongly objected in the Supreme Court to the argument that mandatory Aadhaar was pushing the country towards a “concentration camp”.

Attorney General K K Venugopal described the remarks by senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Shanta Singh, former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, as “unparliamentary”.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar told the counsel, appearing for a group of Aadhaar challengers, and Venugopal, representing the Union government, to seek from the Chief Justice of India a larger bench to decide on the main question of the right to privacy. Questioning notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for welfare benefits, Divan contended it infringed on the right to citizens’ privacy.

“The government cannot compel anyone to give his or her biometrics as this will enable the government to have a complete control over citizens, right from birth, which means it will be a totalitarian state,” he said.

Taking strong exception, Venugopal said the petitioners were not aware of the benefits of Aadhaar.About 350 million people live below the poverty line and the objective of the unique ID programme is to ensure welfare funds are not swallowed enroute, he said.

Divan, however, said he would reiterate what he had said and affirm it in his affidavit as well. At this, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha, said it had no control over the language used by the counsel unless it was unparliamentary.

“Hyperbole is always part of the Indian system,” the bench said, as Venugopal maintained the remarks were unparliamentary.

The court finally allowed both sides to urge the Chief Justice to set up a larger bench. If that is not possible, the court said, it would consider petitions against making Aadhaar mandatory for various welfare schemes, including the mid day meal scheme for children

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