Deadline for Aadhaar linking to be extended to March 31
Will apply to 139 services, including bank accounts
The Attorney-General of India, KK Venugopal, on Thursday submitted before the Supreme Court that the government will issue a notification on Friday extending the deadline for mandatory Aadhaar linking from December 31 to March 31, 2018.
This extension will be for 139 services for which the deadline is currently December 31, 2017. The extension, would in all likelihood, include the mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with bank accounts.
Venugopal apprised the Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, that the extension, however, does not include linking of mobile phones with Aadhaar. The deadline for this is February 6, 2018.
He said it would require a judicial order from the Supreme Court itself to extend the deadline to March 31. This is because the government is complying with a February 6, 2017, order of the Supreme Court in the Lok Niti Foundation case to tighten the verification process of mobile phone users through Aadhaar linkage, citing national security.
The submissions from the Centre’s top law officer came on an urgent mention by advocates PB Suresh and Vipin Nair, joined by senior advocate Shyam Divan, on behalf of petitioners, seeking an early hearing of their petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra orally assured them that a Constitution Bench would hear them next week on the question of providing interlocutory relief.
The Chief Justice indicated that it would be left to the Constitution Bench to give dates for the final hearing of the Aadhaar petitions. Divan has pressed for dates in the first or second week of January 2018, immediately after the Christmas holidays.
Divan submitted that the government should assure the court that no coercive steps would be taken by the Centre or its agencies on Aadhaar holders till the apex court takes a final decision on the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.
“If that is the case, nobody will produce it (Aadhaar). We have said that those with Aadhaar do not mind producing their Aadhaar," Venugopal submitted.
Divan said the government’s stand is increasingly ambiguous on the plight of existing holders who do not want to link their Aadhaar. He urged the court to address the issue immediately. Venugopal said the Centre was equally ready to argue the point.
So, the focus of the hearing next week may be on the status of existing Aadhaar holders and whether the extension of the deadline would in effect be confined to non-Aadhaar holders only.
The extension, however, does not include linking of mobile phones with Aadhaar, the deadline for which is February 6, 2018