The Supreme Court on Friday refrained from staying notifications making it mandatory for the citizens to quote Aadhaar numbers to avail benefits of various social welfare schemes.

The government, however, maintained that it would not extend June 30 deadline fixed for the purpose. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha said that it is appropriate to examine similar pleas, already pending, with the instant PIL filed by Shanta Sinha, former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

"It is appropriate all applications, overlapping the same issue, be heard together to avoid multiplicity," the bench said. The court put the matter for consideration on June 27, just three days before the deadline for linking most of the schemes like scholarship for students comes to end on June 30. 

The court passed its order while recording strong objection by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. He said the matter should be heard by a Constitution bench only as the previous orders were passed by the five-judge bench in October, 2015.

He was also emphatic that the government would not extend the deadline of June 30. "About 115 crore people already got registered for Aadhaar. The idea is not to check the benefits of social welfare schemes being taken away by the Ghosts (fake people) and stop leakage," he said.

"The people who are supposed to be benefitted by these schemes are not before the court but those who are not going to be affected by all, keep filing petitions after petitions. They are same group of people," he contended.

Rohatgi cited a petition moved by Lt Col (retd) S G Vombatkere in October 2016 with the similar prayers wherein the apex court did not grant any relief. "Can they go on filing petitions after petitions which have even the same text? I can show that paragraphs in this petition are true copies of what was there in the last petition on the subject. This is an abuse of the process of the court," he complained.

Appearing for Sinha, senior advocate Shyam Divan said the present PIL was entirely different.

"These notifications were not issued when the previous petition was filed. There is a fresh cause of actions. And technicality should be the last thing when we are claiming the violation of fundamental rights. The court had in 2015 asked the government not to make Aadhaar mandatory and they are now in breach. The AG should not shy away from replying on merit," he contended. Rohatgi responded by saying, "I am not shying away. I have fought these cases 20 times."

He said the Aadhaar was merely an executive scheme when the restraint orders were passed but now the Parliament has passed a law. "There cannot be any injunction against the Parliament from passing a law," he said, adding only a Constitution Bench should hear the matter. On this, Divan said a PIL petitioner should not be denied hearing on technical grounds.

"Please don't say that this court is not available for common citizens. This court is always available for them," the bench said.

The court deferred the hearing to June 27, saying the court registry, after suitable instructions from the Chief Justice of India, will place this case before an appropriate bench. A separate bench had already reserved its judgement on a batch of petitions challenging the government's decision to link PAN cards with Aadhaar number in filing Income-Tax returns.

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