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If ID with private firm, why not with the government?: Supreme Court on Aadhaar

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Aadhaar Number

New Delhi, Jan 19: While hearing the matter related to constitutional validity of Aadhaar,the Supreme Court on Thursday asked petitioners what was their objection in sharing address proof with the government when there was no problem sharing it with private parties.

“If you need insurance, you go to a private party. If you need a phone, you go to a private party… If private player asks for address proof, it is okay. But if government do the same, then (the argument is) it’s at the core of my identity,” stated Justice D Y Chandrachud, one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench.

“If you apply for a job, the first thing they ask is your address proof, and salary is admitted to a private bank,” he asserted.

Responding to this, Senior Supreme Court advocate, Shyam Divan appearing for petitioners, said there was a difference between sharing details with a private party known to one and an unknown one.

“The question is: Can the State compel you to give your information to a private party which is totally out of control of UIDAI and is then free to put this to commercial use”, Divan said.

Reacting to this, Justice Chandrachud stated the court would like to know what safeguards were put in place by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to preserve someone’s personal data.

Divan further added the petitioners were concerned regarding the integrity of information collected by private enrollers. And the apprehension was validated by the government’s statement in Parliament when, on April 10, it said that in the past six years it had cancelled and blacklisted 34,000 operators who tried to “pollute the system”. Since December 2016, action had been taken against 1,000 operators, the Hindustan Times quoted.

Divan asked the bench to bear in mind three aspects — integrity of the process followed for collection of personal and biometric data, integrity of information being collected, and the pervasive invasion of the fundamental rights in view of the apex court’s privacy judgement.

After that he drew the court’s attention to the Aadhaar enrolment form, as it existed prior to the enactment of the Aadhaar legislation of 2016. Divan pointed out the form says enrolment is voluntary.

Petitioners lawyer said  part B of the form requires the applicant to provide mobile number and bank account details. The collection of such sensitive information is purely a sovereign function and cannot be delegated to private firms. “State alone can be trustee,” he asserted in the end.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four other judges Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Adarsh Kumar Sikri, D.Y.Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is the hearing pleas on seeking interim relief against the central government’s decision on linking of Aadhaar with various schemes.

Earlier on Wednesday, Shyam Divan had told the bench that Aadhaar may cause death of citizens’ civil rights, news agency ANI quoted.

Divan further stated that people’s constitution was being converted into a state’s Constitution and it was incorrect to take people’s biometric data for Aadhaar Card.

The 12- digit unique identification number, supported by biometric data, is being opposed by many on security and privacy grounds.

The apex court has also received petitions regarding the linkage of this 12-digit number with mobile phones, bank accounts and so on.

Earlier, on December 7 last year, the Centre told the top court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes would be extended until 31 March 2018.

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CM Amarinder praises farmers for lifting blockade on goods

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Amarinder Singh

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday welcomed the farmer unions’ decision to allow movement of goods trains, saying it was in the interest of the state’s economy and its revival.

Thanking the farmer unions for heeding his appeal, the Chief Minister said the farmers had shown their love and concern for the people of Punjab with this move, as it will allow the state to get its much-needed coal supplies.He pointed out that the people of Punjab had been facing a total power shutdown as a result of coal shortage due to the blockade, and the decision of the unions had come as a major relief to them.Singh said in a statement here that farmer organisations, with this decision, had also ensured that the industry would not have to suffer anymore but would get back on the path to revival.The ‘rail roko’ of the farmers had caused huge financial losses to the industry, thus compounding the crisis triggered by the Covid pandemic.

Further, said the Chief Minister, the easing of the blockade for goods trains will help the state replenish its critically low urea supplies, thus catering to the urgent need of the farming community for fertilisers.The farmers had not let the state down, and he would personally ensure that his government never lets them down, said Amarinder Singh.He reiterated his commitment to save their livelihood and lives, both of which were facing acute danger as a result of the Centre’s ‘black’ farm laws.The Chief Minister, however, urged the unions to also lift the blockade on passenger trains, which were catering to tens of thousands of Punjabis every day, especially during festive times.”The people of Punjab want to come back home to celebrate the festival season with their families,” he said, appealing to the farmers to allow the movement of passenger trains too in the interest of Punjabis.

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Delhi HC adjourns hearing on plea against appointing SPPs in riots cases

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Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday adjourned till November 9 the hearing on a plea against the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs) in cases of riots and violence in northeast Delhi in February.

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SC allows trust to operate banks accounts to pay bills, taxes

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Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has permitted the Maharwal Khewaji Trust, which manages the Rs 20,000-crore property of erstwhile princely state of Faridkot, to operate bank accounts to pay salaries to staff and meet expenses on utilities bills and taxes etc.

In June, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ruled that the will of Harinder Singh Brar, the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state, was forged in favour of the Maharwal Khewaji Trust on June 1, 1982.

The High Court had said that his two daughters, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Maharani Deepinder Kaur, were entitled to inherit and share the properties.

The trust had moved the Supreme Court against this order. The top court had ordered for a status quo and allowed the trust to continue as caretaker.

Last Friday, a bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat said: “Since the activities undertaken by the Trust are in the nature of running a hospital and other philanthropic causes, at this stage, we permit the applicant Trust to operate the accounts mentioned in Paragraph 12 of the application strictly for the purposes enumerated at serial numbers 2 to 7 in Paragraph 8 of the application.”

The expenses include those on salaries, amounts due towards security agency, utilities bills, advance tax and GST payments and the statutory payments towards ESI and EPF.

The bench ordered that details of all expenses incurred as well as credits received should be placed before it periodically.

“The first report shall be filed on or before October 30; and the second report thereafter be submitted on or before November 30, ” said the top court.

Senior Advocates V Giri and Krishnan Venugopal opposed the prayer and submitted that in the name of meeting the expenditure towards fulfilling the objectives of the Trust, the amounts are being misused and, as such, the relief prayed for should not to be granted.

The top court’s order came on an interlocutory application filed by Trust that during the pendency of these petitions it may be permitted to operate its bank accounts.

Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Dhruv Mehta, appearing for the applicant, submitted that though there was no express order of injunction, the banks concerned have frozen the Trust accounts, as a result of which its activities are getting seriously prejudiced. They urged the top court to allow these accounts to be operated during the pendency of petitions.

The top court also directed the bank managers concerned to submit statements of accounts from June 1 to October 30. The top court listed the matter for disposal on November 4.

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