New Delhi: Arguing that it was against the federal structure, the Supreme Court on Monday reprimanded the Mamata Banerjee government for filing a plea challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory to avail benefits of social welfare schemes.
The top court asked how a state could challenge the mandate of parliament, suggesting that the West Bengal chief minister could file the plea as an individual. “How can a state file such a plea? In a federal structure, how can a state file a plea challenging parliament’s mandate,” a bench comprising Justices A. K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said.
Senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for the West Bengal government, told the court that the plea has been filed by the state’s labour department because it is the nodal department for disbursing subsidies under these schemes.
“You satisfy us how the state has challenged it. We know it is a matter which needs consideration,” the bench said, adding the Centre’s move can be challenged by an individual but not by states.
“Let Mamata Banerjee come and file a plea as an individual. We will entertain it as she will be an individual,” the top court said.
Maintaining that the state was entitled to file such a plea, Sibal however said that they would amend the prayer in the petition.
Meanwhile, the bench issued notice to the Centre on a separate plea filed by an individual challenging the linking of mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar.
The court has asked the Centre to file its response to the plea in four weeks. The West Bengal government challenged the current provision which denies welfare scheme benefits to those who do not possess Aadhaar.
Earlier, the Centre told the apex court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail benefits of various government schemes has been extended till March 31, 2018, for those who do not have the 12-digit biometric identification number.
The court informed that the deadline extension from December end till March 31, 2018 would apply only to those who do not have Aadhaar and are willing to enrol for it.
Several petitions, challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes and notifications to link it with mobile numbers and bank accounts, are pending in the apex court.