Supreme Court Aadhaar

Trinamool Congress workers stage a demonstration in Kolkata against the union government's decision to link mid-day meals with Aadhaar cards, March 6. The Supreme Court ruled Dec. 15 to extend the deadline to link Aadhaar to government schemes, as well as mobile phones and bank accounts, to March 31, 2018. (Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS photo)

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court Dec. 15 extended the deadline to link Aadhaar to various government schemes, as well as mobile phones and bank accounts, from Dec. 31 to March 31, 2018.

However, the Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said those who do not have an Aadhaar number but are opening bank accounts will have to furnish their enrollment number for the unique ID.

The interim order will be subject to the final outcome of the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act on the grounds that it violates the fundamental right to privacy.

Having ordered the deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones to be extended to March 31, 2018, the court further directed that the extension shall apply to the schemes framed by all central ministries and departments, including by the state governments.

On linking of the Aadhaar number with the Permanent Account Number under Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, 2017, the court said the same would continue to be governed by the June 9 judgment of the top court.

Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, incorporated by way of the Finance Act 2017-2018, provides for the invalidation of PAN if it is not linked to an Aadhaar number. The invalidation of PAN has a bearing on the filing of annual income tax returns.

The top court bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan by the June 9, 2017, judgments had upheld the validity of Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act mandating linking of the Aadhaar number with the Permanent Account Number, but partially blocked its operation.

The court had said that those who already possess the Aadhaar number will have to link it with PAN, but it cannot be insisted upon for those who do not have Aadhaar.

Upholding the validity of provision mandating the linking Aadhaar with PAN on the scales of Article 14 and Article 19, the top court June 9 had said, "The validity of the provision upheld in the aforesaid manner is subject to passing the muster of Article 21 of the Constitution, which is the issue before the Constitution Bench..."

The top court's direction extending the interim relief granted earlier came on a batch of petitions contending that Aadhaar could only be insisted upon for availing benefits under six schemes as permitted by the top court by its Aug. 11 and Oct. 15, 2015 order.

The petitioners had sought directions to the government to strictly follow the earlier orders of the top court commencing Sept. 23, 2013, and that the Aadhaar scheme was purely voluntary and could not be made mandatory until the matter is finally decided by the constitution bench.

Pointing to the importance of the issues raised by the petitioner that led to the top court's nine-judge bench ruling holding that the right to privacy was a fundamental right, the court Dec. 15 said that the "resolution of the issues raised ... should proceed at the earliest."

Having said this, the court directed the hearing of the matter be held Jan. 17, 2018.

The top court's order extending the deadline for linking Aadhaar with various schemes, including bank accounts and mobile phones, came on a batch of petitions by the former Karnataka High Court Judge Justice K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others.

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