All the issues arising out of Aadhaar should finally be decided by a larger bench and the Chief Justice of India would take a call on the need for setting up a constitution bench comprising seven or nine judges, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
"My opinion is that once a matter has been referred to a constitution bench, then all the issues arising out of it should be with the constitution bench. I can only say that a matter can be disposed of by a nine-judge bench. You two can decide the possibility of nine judges hearing it", Justice J Chelameswar, who was heading a three-judge bench, told Attorney General K K Venugopal and senior counsel Shyam Divan.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha, said it will depend upon the Chief Justice of India to decide whether the matter can be examined by a bench of seven or nine judges.
The bench asked the Attorney General and Divan, who was appearing for the parties opposing making of Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes, to mention the matter before a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar to constitute a larger bench.
"We believe that these matters should be heard by a constitution bench. We suggest to both of you to request the Chief Justice to constitute a larger bench so that these matters can be decided finally. If the CJI will say it cannot be done immediately, you can come before us", the bench said.
"Don't you think that the matter has to be settled for all times to come", Justice Chelameswar asked Venugopal, while welcoming him to appear before the bench for the first time after taking charge as the Attorney General.
Venugopal agreed with the suggestion and said an early date should be given to hear the matter.
During the hearing, the bench was also pained to know that after the matter was referred to a constitution bench, smaller benches were taking up issues relating to Aadhaar time and again and were also passing orders.
The bench rose for the day after half-an-hour of hearing, while asking the two advocates to mention the matter before a bench headed by the CJI.
A two-judge bench of the apex court had on June 27 refused to pass an interim order against the Centre's notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of social welfare schemes, with the government assuring it that no one would be deprived for want of this identification.
The court had observed that no interim order could be passed merely on the "apprehension" raised by the petitioners that somebody might be deprived of the benefits under the various social welfare schemes due to the lack of Aadhaar, especially when no such affected person had come before it.
The apex court was hearing three separate petitions challenging government's notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.
Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.
The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens for extending benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and Public Distribution System.