On Day 6 of the crucial Aadhaar hearing had its moment of drama yesterday as raised voice from an advocate drew a stinging rebuke from a judge. A five-judge constitution bench is hearing the contentious petition challenges the validity of Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric data-based Unique Identification number that has been made mandatory by the government for welfare schemes and financial institutions.
On Thursday, Shayam Divan, who was appearing for the petitioners, told the court that the Centre’s contention that Aadhaar has led to a clampdown on corruption by weeding out false claims on social benefits. The Centre, Mr Divan said, has cited inflated figures.
It struck a chord. In the last hearing, Justice DY Chandrachud had quoted a World Bank report praising the Aadhaar scheme for the elimination of bogus beneficiaries and the subsequent savings.
The 58-year-old judge took exception to the contention and said that “I don’t care if I am branded as an ‘Aadhaar judge’. You (counsel) are repeatedly giving an impression that I am an Aadhaar judge and 25 years down the line, people who read the judgment will call me ‘Aadhaar judge’,” who is part of several benches headed by the Chief Justice of India that are hearing crucial cases.
Justice Chandrachud said he does not mind “being called a capitalist or ideologically committed”.
Justice Chandrachud asked Divan as to what amounted to “puffery” as per the petitioners and where it was dealt and referred to in their pleadings.
“There is no point raising the voice,” the judge said.
“The moment we ask questions, we are attacked as we are committed to…If that is so then I plead guilty to the charge. We are not defending the government nor are we going to follow the NGO line,” Justice Chandrachud said.
He said the moment questions are asked, the allegations are levelled that “you are ideologically committed” and will be termed as an “Aadhaar judge”.
“We are committed to the conscience of the Constitution,” Justice Chandrachud said, adding that rather he would like to be a “nationalist judge”.
“Since beginning, I am hearing this that if I am not with you, then I am an Aadhaar judge. I don’t care;I am not answerable to anybody. I am committed to the Constitution,” he added.
Taking note of the way arguments were being advanced, the judge said, “This was not the way, you argue the case.”
“Constitutional matters cannot be argued on hyperbole,” he said.
The senior lawyer immediately tendered an apology and even at the end of the day’s hearing, he repeated his submission tendering the apology and expresses his gratitude towards Hon’ble Judges for taking him in a right way, Mr. Diwan added.
Justice Chandrachud accepted it in very calm manner.
Justice Chandrachud had been part of the bench that recognized privacy as a fundamental right, a ruling that forms the basis of the clutch of 27 petitions on Aadhaar that has come up before the Constitution bench. Activists contend that making Aadhaar mandatory violates the Right to Privacy.
The arguments would continue on 6th February.
Report By: Manavi Joshi, Student Reporter, INBA