Despite a clear direction from the Supreme Court for not making Aadhaar mandatory for any services other than allowed by it, the Maharashtra government is found to be openly flouting this order. The Education Department headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Vinod Tawde is again enforcing Aadhaar for all students appearing for senior secondary (SSC) and higher secondary (HSC) examinations across the state. Pune-based Sajag Nagrik Manch and Nagrik Chetana Manch have filed a complaint to the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, requesting the government to withdraw a circular issued by the Education Department on Aadhaar.
Pramod Patil, Section Officer in the Education Department on 21 September 2016 issued a letter to the Chairman of Maharashtra State Secondary & Higher Secondary Education Board. The Letter issued on 'urgent' basis directs the Chairman to mandatorily obtain Aadhaar number of students appearing for the SSC and HSC examinations from 2016-17. Patil also asked the Chairman to make suitable changes in the registration form to accommodate Aadhaar number of students.
In the complaint, both the Manchs, represented by Vivek Velankar and Dr Anupam Saraph, said, "This (issuing circular) is a shocking disrespect of the rule of law and of the repeated orders of the Supreme Court. We request you to immediately withdraw above mentioned circular making Aadhaar card mandatory for 10th and 12th board form filling immediately failing which we will be compelled to approach the courts for remedies and relief from your failure to respect the rule of law."
The Office of Maharashtra Chief Secretary forwarded the complaint to the Principal Secretary of Education Department request him to take necessary action as per the rules and also inform the Manchs on the action being taken.
On 14 September 2016, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Adarsh Kumar Goel, while staying operation and implementation of scheme for pre-matric scholarship scheme, post-matric scholarship scheme and merit-cum-means scholarship scheme asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India to remove Aadhaar number as a mandatory condition for student registration form at the national scholarship portal of the Ministry.
This is the second time the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government is openly flouting orders issued by the apex court. Last year in April
, the Maharashtra government issued a resolution for making Aadhaar mandatory for all students up to 14 years of age in the state and connect it with their school admission number. The district collector, as well as district education officer, is asked to fully implement this scheme before 26th June and submit a report. What the Education Department had forgotten was at that time majority of schools in the state were having summer vacations.
Later on 16 October 2015, while reiterating that Aadhaar scheme is purely voluntary, the SC extended its usage for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old Age Pensions, Widow Pensions, Disability Pensions) Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). Earlier the apex court had allowed usage of Aadhaar to public distribution scheme (PDS), for the distribution of foodgrains, cooking fuel, such as kerosene and LPG.
The order says, "We impress upon the Union of India that it shall strictly follow all the earlier orders passed by this Court commencing from 23 September 2013. We will also make it clear that the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court one way or the other."
Yet, the Maharashtra government is trying to enforce Aadhaar on students appearing for SSC and HSC, two of the most important examinations in a students' career.
With the Maharashtra government twice openly flouting directions from the Supreme Court, it is high time the apex court takes suo moto action against those responsible for this contempt of Court orders, be it the Minister or other babus.