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The Supreme Court has ex­tended till March 31 the dead­line for manda­tory link­ing of Aad­haar with var­i­ous ser­vices and wel­fare schemes of all min­istries and depart­ments of the Cen­tre, states and union ter­ri­to­ries. A five-judge Con­sti­tu­tion Bench headed by Chief Jus­tice Di­pak Misra, in an in­terim order, con­sid­ered the state­ment of the Cen­tre that it was will­ing to ex­tend the dead­line for link­ing the na­tional bio­met­ric iden­ti­fier with all ser­vices and wel­fare schemes. The bench, also com­pris­ing Jus­tices A K Sikri, A M Khan­wilkar, D Y Chan­drachud and Ashok Bhushan, said, "We ac­cept the state­ment of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of In­dia and order ac­cord­ingly, and hence, the dead­line for Aad­haar link­age with all schemes of min­istries and depart­ments is ex­tended till March 31 next year." The top court agreed with the sub­mis­sion of At­tor­ney Gen­eral K K Venu­gopal that as far as link­ing Aad­haar with ex­ist­ing bank ac­counts was con­cerned, the process can be com­pleted by March 31. About the new bank ac­counts, it said the last date for com­plet­ing the process of Aad­haar link­ing may be also ex­tended and peo­ple de­sirous of open­ing new ac­counts will have to pro­duce proof to the bank that he or she has ap­plied for the card. Taking note of the Cen­tre's sub­mis­sion with re­gard to link­ing of Aad­haar with mo­bile ser­vices, the court mod­i­fied its ear­lier order and said the dead­line of Fe­bru­ary 6 next year for this pur­pose also stood ex­tended. "We also di­rect that the ex­ten­sion of the last date for Aad­har link­age to 31 March 2018 shall ap­ply, be­sides the schemes of the Min­istries/ Depart­ments of the Union govern­ment to all state gov­ern­ments in sim­i­lar terms," Jus­tice Chan­drachud, who wrote the unan­i­mous in­terim order, said. The order said the ear­lier apex court ver­dict, up­hold­ing the va­lid­ity of an In­come Tax Act pro­vi­sion mak­ing Aad­haar manda­tory for al­lot­ment of PAN cards and fil­ing of tax re­turns, will re­main in force. The court also made clear that the in­terim di­rec­tion on ex­ten­sion of dead­line "shall con­tinue to op­er­ate pend­ing dis­posal of the pro­ceed­ings be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tion Bench" and fixed the clutch of pe­ti­tions, chal­leng­ing the Aad­haar scheme it­self, for fi­nal hear­ing on 17 Jan­uary, next year. "We are of the con­sid­ered view that the res­o­lu­tion of the is­sues raised be­fore the court should pro­ceed at the ear­li­est, af­ter the court re­assem­bles in Jan­uary 2018. This will en­sure clar­ity for cit­i­zens on the one hand and for the Union and the state gov­ern­ments and the in­stru­men­tal­i­ties on the other hand," the bench said. The bench was hear­ing pleas by sev­eral peo­ple, in­clud­ing former High Court judge Jus­tice K S Put­taswamy, seek­ing an in­terim stay on manda­tory link­ing of Aad­haar with var­i­ous schemes. Ear­lier, the Cen­tre has ex­pressed will­ing­ness to ex­tend dead­line for manda­tory link­ing of Aad­haar for var­i­ous ser­vices. Re­cently, a nine-judge con­sti­tu­tion bench of the apex court had held that Right to Pri­vacy was a Fun­da­men­tal Right un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. Sev­eral pe­ti­tion­ers chal­leng­ing the va­lid­ity of Aad­haar have claimed it vi­o­lated pri­vacy rights. Some pe­ti­tion­ers in the top court have termed the link­ing of the Unique Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Author­ity of In­dia (UIDAI) num­ber with bank ac­counts and mo­bile num­bers as "il­le­gal and un­con­sti­tu­tional". They have also ob­jected to CBSE's al­leged move to make Aad­haar manda­tory for stu­dents ap­pear­ing for ex­am­i­na­tions, a con­tention de­nied by the Cen­tre. The ex­ten­sion of dead­line for link­ing Aad­haar with mo­bile con­nec­tions to March 31, 2018, pro­vides an im­me­di­ate re­lief to both tele­com op­er­a­tors and con­sumers, in­dus­try body COAI said to­day. "We are pleased that the time­line has been ex­tended. We were fac­ing chal­lenges in com­ply­ing with the ear­lier dead­line given the vol­ume (of tele­com sub­scribers)," COAI Direc­tor Gen­eral Ra­jan Mathews told PTI. The ex­ten­sion will be "good news" also for con­sumers as it will pro­vide them more time for com­pli­ance. The dead­line of Fe­bru­ary 6, 2018, for link­ing the bio­met­ric iden­ti­fier with mo­bile con­nec­tions also stands ex­tended up to March 31, 2018. Mathews said the Cel­lu­lar Op­er­a­tors' As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (COAI) will be in con­stant touch with the tele­com depart­ment on nu­ances of com­pli­ance with the March 31 dead­line.

Chief Jus­tice Di­pak Misra

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