New Dead­line:

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.

India Business Journal - - CONTENTS -

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.

Some re­lief

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".

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