As Supreme Court defers Aadhaar-linking mandate to March 31, all eyes are now on the apex court to bring some clarity and sanity to the contentious issue.
As Supreme Court defers Aadhaarlinking mandate to March 31, all eyes are now on the apex court to bring some clarity and sanity to the contentious issue.
Supreme Court has extended 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 till March 31. In an interim order last month, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, 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 could be completed by March 31. It also added that for new bank accounts, the last date for completing the process of Aadhaar linking might be extended and people wanting to open new accounts would have to produce proof to the bank that he or she had 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 that the deadline of February 6 next year for this purpose also stood extended. "We also direct that the extension of the last date for Aadhaar linkage to March 31, 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 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 Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) has said. "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 has noted.
The extension will also be "good news" for consumers as it will provide them more time for compliance. Mr Mathews has added that COAI will be in constant touch with the telecom department on nuances of compliance with the March 31 deadline.
The order noted that the earlier apex court's verdict, upholding the validity of a provision of the Income Tax Act, making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of tax returns, would 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 January 17.
Hope on judiciary
"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 has said.
The bench has been 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 had expressed its 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 the Right to Privacy was a fundamental right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar have claimed that it violated privacy rights.
Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) numbers with bank accounts and mobile numbers as "illegal and unconstitutional". They have also objected to the Central Board of Secondary Education's alleged move to make Aadhaar mandatory for students appearing for examinations, a contention denied by the Centre.
Aadhaar is a unique tool that is designed to play multiple functions, such as providing identity to individuals, weeding out ghost beneficiaries and enabling targeted subsidies and facilitating tax authorities to identify and curb tax evasion effectively. However, in unexplained zeal, the Centre seems to be coercing individuals to link their Aadhaar to almost every available instrument of consumption and investment. This paves the way for surveillance on individuals by the government, and it also put sensitive data of individuals out in the public, given a lack of data privacy in this country. The only hope for individuals now is the Supreme Court, which is set to adjudicate on the matter soon.
Many petitioners have challenged linking of Aadhaar with other services as "illegal and unconstitutional".