SC Dismisses Aadhaar Review Petitions, Justice Chandrachud Dissents

The majority judges said they found no case for review of the 2018 judgment.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a batch of pleas seeking review of its 2018 verdict upholding the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but striking down some of its provisions, including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, by a majority of 4:1, rejected the review pleas against the apex court’s September 26, 2018 verdict.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, one of the five judges of the bench, dissented with the majority verdict and said that the review petitions be kept pending until a larger bench decides the question related to certification of a Bill as a money Bill. Justice Chandrachud was also part of the bench that delivered the 2018 verdict and had dissented then too, calling Aadhaar a “fraud on the constitution”.

The Aadhaar Bill was certified as a money Bill which enabled the government to get it cleared without getting the assent of a majority in Rajya Sabha.

The majority judgment in the Aadhaar case dismissed concerns regarding the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a money Bill. Justice Sikri noted that the Act could have been passed as a money Bill.

But in November 2019, another constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in the Rojer Mathew vs. South Indian Bank Ltd judgment, doubted the correctness of the interpretation of the majority judges that Aadhaar Bill is a money Bill. The bench had therefore referred the matter – testing the validity of provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 – to a larger bench.

The majority order, which was issued on January 11 said, “The present review petitions have been filed against the final judgment and order dated September 26, 2018. We have perused the review petitions as well as the grounds in support thereof. In our opinion, no case for review of judgment and order dated September 26, 2018 is made out.”

“We hasten to add that change in the law or subsequent decision/judgment of a coordinate or larger bench by itself cannot be regarded as a ground for review. The review petitions are accordingly dismissed,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. Abdul Nazeer and B.R. Gavai.

According to LiveLaw, Justice Chandrachud noted:

“If these review petitions are to be dismissed and the larger bench reference in Rojer Mathew were to disagree with the analysis of the majority opinion in Puttaswamy (Aadhaar-5J.), it would have serious consequences – not just for judicial discipline, but also for the ends of justice. As such, the present batch of review petitions should be kept pending until the larger bench decides the questions referred to it in Rojer Mathew. In all humility, I conclude that the constitutional principles of consistency and the rule of law would require that a decision on the Review Petitions should await the reference to the Larger Bench.”

(With PTI inputs)