Punjab and Haryana High Court is right, mandatory Aadhaar violates Right to Equality of opportunity in employment

The court observed that Article 16 (1) is flouted when the UID is demanded by prospective employers, in violation of existing Supreme Court orders.

In a significant order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has recognized how Aadhaar has been acting as a barrier for actualization of fundamental rights for people all across the country. In the case of Pradeep Kumar v. Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, that came up before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, an order was delivered on 28th February, 2018 wherein Justice Rajiv Narain Raina held that the mandatory need for an Aadhaar to apply for a job violates Article 16(1) of the Indian Constitution.

Article 16(1) states, “(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.” In this case, the petitioner, had applied for vacancies for the post of professors that had been advertised by the respondent university. However, the online portal for such job applications mandated the requirement of Aadhaar to move to Step 2 of the application process. The petitioner, having not registered for Aadhaar, even asked to be provided with a different mechanism to apply for the job. However, no provisions were made and he moved the court under its writ jurisdiction of Article 226 seeking a writ of mandamus.

In its order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the job application process and held that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory. Not only does the order hold Aadhaar as a major hurdle for citizens to exercise their fundamental rights, it also now stands as a precedent against other entities that are making Aadhaar mandatory for employment opportunities.

Moreover, in another order given by the Supreme Court on 7th March, 2018, the Constitution Bench has stayed the notification issued by CBSE making Aadhaar compulsory to register for the National Education cum Entrance test (NEET), 2018, and other all India exams in the near future.

Presently, a five judge constitution bench in the Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the Aadhaar project, where the main contentions raised by the petitioners include, that the Aadhaar project is violative of fundamental right to privacy as the population is being coerced to provide their biometrics; the Aadhaar Act extends beyond its scope and object which is limited to effective dispersal of subsidies and benefits as even private entities are permitted to use it for identification purposes. It is even argued that the fallibility of biometric technology leads to large scale exclusion.

Although, there are Supreme Court orders dated 11th August, 2015 and 15th October, 2015, that explicitly maintain that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory, and restrict even its voluntary usage to 6 schemes, namely PDS, LPG, MNREGA, PM Jan Dhan Yojna, National Social Assistance Program, and Employees Providend Fund, there are numerous central and state government schemes that have made Aadhaar mandatory in violation of the Supreme Court orders.

Therefore, the order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court marks a victory in the battle against Aadhaar as it is an acknowledgment by a judicial authority of Aadhaar leading to exclusion and discrimination, which in turns violates fundamental rights of citizens.