A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar on Tuesday referred the question of violation of privacy by the Aadhaar identity scheme to a nine-judge Bench.
The case will be heard on Wednesday.
The question of privacy has become a contentious issue as several petitioners have alleged the scheme violated the fundamental right to privacy of citizens by gathering personal information, including biometric details.
The government contends that the Constitution does not recognise right to privacy as a fundamental right.
Even judgments of the Supreme Court have not ruled that privacy was a fundamental right. The Bench will have to examine two specific decisions of the Supreme Court — one delivered in 1954 by an eight-judge Bench and another in 1962 by a six-judge Bench.
There are some 22 petitions challenging various aspects of Aadhaar, such as linking it to one’s permanent account number (PAN), making it compulsory for filing income tax returns, opening bank accounts and claiming mid-day meals for school children.
All of them allege the government has committed contempt of court by making it compulsory, while the court had earlier ruled that it should be insisted on only for basic benefits such as food and domestic fuel.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the court separated all those issues from the fundamental question of right to privacy.
After the decision of the Bench, other issues will be put up before smaller benches.
The court took the decision because the government was going ahead with the unique identity scheme, despite the court being seized of the legality of the scheme itself.
The petitioners have several times submitted to the court that the government was ignoring its orders and pressing ahead with the scheme, creating a “concentration camp” atmosphere in the country.