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Aadhaar verdict big victory, will end abuse of power: Congress

“This marks the beginning of a new era of accountability for the Speaker who so far was beyond reproach,” a Congress statement added.

IANS | New Delhi |

Calling the Supreme Court’s verdict a big victory, the Congress on Wednesday said the decision to strike down the Modi governments “surveillance tool” will put an end to the government’s “abuse of power”.

It said that through its judgment, the Supreme Court had firmly put an end to the “mass surveillance exercise being carried out under the guise of Aadhaar and the “grotesque distortion of an idea conceived by the UPA”.

Addressing a press conference here at the AICC office, Congress leader Kapil Sibal welcomed the verdict calling it an endorsement of the UPA’s vision for Aadhaar.

He said Aadhaar can no longer be made mandatory for mobile phones and bank accounts.

The Congress leader added that an important part of the judgment was that it unanimously agreed that the decisions of the Lok Sabha Speaker can be subject to judicial review.

“This marks the beginning of a new era of accountability for the Speaker who so far was beyond reproach,” a Congress statement added.

Sibal said while four judges of the Supreme Court upheld the classification of the Aadhaar Act as a money bill, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dissented calling it a “debasement of the democratic structure” which renders the Act an “illegality”.

Justice Chandrachud has also held that passage of bills in such a manner by the government is a way of undermining the role of parliament and parliamentarians, he said.

He said the Congress will not accept any attempt by the government to bring an amendment to the Act through the money bill route and would challenge it in court.

Later, a party statement said the government sees Aadhaar not as a viable tool for the delivery of benefits but as a “mechanism to be misused by forcibly collecting data from the public and harvesting the same for purposes of surveillance”.

“The Congress Party stands for an Aadhaar which is voluntary and backed by a valid law. It stands for an Aadhaar which provides a genuinely stable, secure and viable alternative to existing forms of identification aimed at making it the most important tool for delivery of benefits rather than invasion of privacy,” it said.

Referring to the minority judgment by Justice Chandrachud, the Congress said it is a scathing indictment of the government’s clandestine and dishonest approach towards its parliamentary responsibilities.

“In doing so, and when reading with the decision of the entire bench, this opens the door for several challenges to the Speaker’s arbitrary decisions and has effectively changed the law as it existed on the subject.”

The party pledged to examine the Aadhaar law and its provisions to adhere to the stated objectives of ensuring the direct benefit of government schemes to the poor and deprived while upholding the right to privacy in its entirety, upon coming back to the office.

In its landmark judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar document but with modifications. It said it will not be required for opening bank accounts, admissions in schools or for getting mobile phone connections.