Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday gave green signal to the installation of biometric attendance system in government offices, “clarifying” that its stay only pertains to linking biometrics with Aadhaar cards in the state.
“Meanwhile it is clarified that there is no stay with regard to the biometric attendance system which can be installed in the government offices,” said a division bench of chief justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey.
The clarification by the court followed submissions by petitioner in-person, advocate Syed Musaib and advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie.
While Musaib gave detailed account of the proceedings in the PIL so far, the advocate general, on being asked by the court that whether Aadhaar was mandatory or not, responded; “the issue was open as the matter was pending with the Supreme Court.”
“Earlier petition (making Aadhaar mandatory) was disposed of by this court (by quashing the government order) but this order (under challenge) pertains to employees and by this order, it is not that we are denying any benefits to the them (employees),” the advocate general said, adding that “my humble submission is how this government order (implementation of Aadhar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS) in Jammu and Kashmir) is affecting any public interest?”
“I tell you how because it is making Aadhaar mandatory,” the Chief Justice retorted before passing the directions regarding clarification. The Court also granted two weeks time to the government to file response to the supplementary affidavit filed by the petitioner.
On previous date of hearing, the court had reiterated its observation that procurement of Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory until apex court decides on the issue. It had also sought government’s reply about the fate of 33 percent population, which was yet to avail the facility when Aadhaar enrollment centers in the state have already been closed.
Musaib also submitted that Aadhaar enrollment centers in the state have already been closed and as such remaining 33% of the population has no scope or facility of getting enrolled with AAadhaar system.
Aadhar is a 12-digit unique identity number issued by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), a government of India agency, which was established by the Planning Commission in 2009.
In November last year, the High Court had quashed a government order, making Aadhar card mandatory for its employees for drawing various entitlements including the salary.
“From the perusal of the Supreme Court order dated 15-10-2015, it is evident that matter was referred to the constitution bench for final hearing, making it clear that AAadhaar card scheme is voluntary and cannot be made mandatory till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court in one way or the other,” the high court had said and asked the government to “strictly” follow the apex court’s interim orders from 29 March 2013.
“It is beyond doubt that government order issued cannot all be sustained as it is in violation of the interim orders passed by the Supreme Court,” the division bench had said and quashed the government order (No. 35-F of 2016 dated 10-2-2016) with a liberty to the administration to issue a fresh order in compliance with the interim orders passed by the apex court relating to foods grains, cooking fuel such as kerosene and for the purpose of the LPG distribution scheme.
The petitioner has submitted in the PIL that the government order suffers from infirmity with respect to the constitution as people in the state are forced to disclose private information under the cloak of the Aadhar scheme. Accordingly, he had sought directions from the High Court to quash the order and direct the administration not to make possession of the Aadhaar card mandatory for any benefits due to a citizen.