NEW DELHI — The Congress on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict striking down certain provisions of the Aadhaar scheme, terming it a "slap" on the BJP's face, and said it will approach the apex court again if the government tries to bring amendments to the law by bypassing the Rajya Sabha.
It said in case the legislation amending the law are passed as Money Bill again, it will move the court urging it to refer the matter to a seven-judge bench.
The opposition party said by scrapping the "draconian" Section 57 and the national security exception in the Aadhaar Act, the Supreme Court firmly put an end to a "mass surveillance exercise" being carried out under the guise of Aadhaar by the central government and the "grotesque distortion" of an idea conceived by the previous UPA dispensation.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi thanked the Supreme Court for its verdict, saying it was an instrument of empowerment for his party, but a "tool of oppression and surveillance" for the BJP.
Party leader Kapil Sibal also expressed satisfaction over exclusion of private companies from Aadhaar project and said the idea to involve private companies was not just "undemocratic" but was against the spirit of democracy.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Wednesday held that while Aadhaar scheme was constitutionally valid and would remain mandatory for filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and the telecom service providers cannot seek its linking for mobile connections.
The court upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha. However, Justice D Y Chandrachud, who wrote the judgement separately, said that the Aadhaar Act could not have been passed as Money Bill as it amounted to a fraud on the Constitution.
Sibal said his party supports the views of Justice Chandrachud. The Congress party and its leader Jairam Ramesh had challenged the passage of the bill in the House as Money Bill.
Sibal denied it was a set back to the Congress, claiming if it had been struck down then the marginalized would not have got anything.
"If the Lok Sabha Speaker says it is a money bill, the court can rethink about it and take a decision on whether it is a money bill or not. This is a very significant decision as in the coming times, this law needs to be amended. When the amendment comes, this finance minister will say this is a money bill. When this happens, we will go to court and say that the manner in which you sidelined Rajya Sabha and did not allow a debate there.
"We will not agree and we will move the Supreme Court again and say that these amendments that they want, this is not a money bill. If this judgment comes in the way, then we will demand that this be set aside and refer the matter to a seven-judge bench. This is not a money bill and we agree with Justice Chandrachud in this regard," he said.
"We believe that in not bringing in the Rajya Sabha, this is the fraud on the Constitution and we will raise this issue again, because, one house of Parliament cannot be just marginalized like this," he told reporters.
Sibal said the party will certainly move the court if amendments in the Aadhaar Act to be brought after this verdict are not brought in Rajya Sabha for discussion.
The former Union minister alleged that the law violates fundamental right to privacy and is a gross abuse of the Money Bill route. Money Bills can be introduced only in Lok Sabha and must be returned by the Rajya Sabha to Lok Sabha within 14 days.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the court has retrieved the UPA's original idea of Aadhaar after the NDA government tried to convert it into a "monster".
Sibal said the Congress was aware that data of crores of people may have fallen in wrong hands and the court decision will prevent information from going into private hands.
"We welcome the judgment to the extent that the judgment strikes down the rights to private sector to collect Aadhaar numbers, neither Banks now are entitled to collect Aadhaar nor telecom companies. I think the interest of the Government was to collect all Aadhaar through private sector and then get it transferred to itself so that it could misuse it. I think the Supreme Court has nipped that mischief in the bud," he said.
Sibal said the party may move a petition in this regard for deletion of data already in the hands of private players, saying it concerns their right to privacy.
"We will, if necessary, move court to ensure this data is destroyed," he said.
Pointing out some of the grey areas, he said the Congress will also seek to ensure that those who are unable to give biometric details like fingerprints are also enrolled under Aadhaar. Sibal said the court has made it clear that the government cannot obtain data of individuals without permission from court.
"Had the government not been arrogant and allowed the democratic process to work, none of this would have happened. The result of all this is crores of people's biometric data is now in private hands. This is immeasurable harm done to the polity and democracy in country," he said.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi tweeted on the verdict, saying, "Slap on the face of BJP".