Claim: In February 2017, the Government of India (GOI) began sending messages to all mobile phone owners in the country, stating it was now mandatory to link their mobile numbers with their Aadhaar card, which is India's 'Unique Identity' scheme. The government claimed that this was done on the basis of an order from the Supreme Court (SC) of India. However, in a recent hearing of the constitutional validity of the case, the SC asserted that it issued no such order.
Never gave the order to link mobile numbers with Aadhar card, says SC
2 May 2018 3:44 PM GMT
It said that it identifies aadhar as a verification ID but never talked about mandatory linking.
Sources: News websites, Court transcripts/orders, UIDAI website, Twitter.
What Happened: During the hearing of the Lokniti vs GOI case in the Supreme Court on the 6th of February, 2017, the bench issued an order regarding the petition for a mobile verification scheme. This order calls for a mobile verification scheme, particularly with regard to prepaid SIM cards, which form nearly 90% of Indian mobile user accounts, on the basis that it would be an effective counter-terrorism measure. Following this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India began notifying all Indian mobile users that it was now mandatory to link their mobile number with their Aadhaar card, failing which, their accounts would be frozen or deactivated.
This, according to the GOI, was the basis of the Department of Telecom order that was issued making linkage mandatory.
However, in a hearing on the 25th of April, 2018, over whether Aadhaar constitutionally violates the right to privacy, Justice Chandrachud of the Supreme Court stated that the SC did not give a specific directive, but rather, the government interpreted its order in such a way allowing for the issual of a notice by the Department of Telecom (DoT) stating that Aadhar linking with mobile phones had been made mandatory by the SC. To quote Justice Chandrachud, "DoT notification says that Aadhaar-SIM linking is being done on the direction of the Supreme Court, whereas there is no such direction." The court stated that they had merely recorded the fact that Aadhaar was being used for verification, it did not issue an order stating that Aadhaar based verification be made mandatory.
Facts: According to India Today and NewsClick, the government of India lied to its people about the mandatory mobile phone linking.
One particular tweet, by the Indian Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was widely circulated on Twitter and other social media in this regard, with the government being called out for lying to the people.
However, the Attorney General of India, K.K Venugopal, claimed in the Supreme Court on the 26th of April, 2018, that there were in existence orders issued directly by the court regarding Aadhaar-mobile linking. He said he would provide more details when the matter continues to be heard next week.
Conclusion: As this is an ongoing story, we have no conclusion right now, and will continue to update it as it evolves. The crux of the issue seems to be whether or not the Supreme Court issued a direct order mandating Aadhaar-mobile linking, or whether the government chose to somewhat creatively interpret its order in the 2017 case. Most newspapers and analysts are tending towards the latter conclusion, especially since Rakesh Dwivedi (counsel to the government of India) stated in the Supreme court that the government was using the Telegraph Avt of India (1985) combined with the Lokniti order cited above to make linkage mandatory. However, since the Attorney General has claimed that the actual orders do exist, and since the Supreme Court did agree that Aadhaar was a effective verification scheme in its 2017 order, it would be only fair to wait until he makes his submission to judge the relative veracity of both sides.