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Deadline for linking Aadhaar not extended yet, points out UIDAI

The Centre informed the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday, Dec 7, that it will extend till March 31 next year the deadline fixed for mandatory linking of Aadhaar for availing various services and welfare schemes. It said a notification to this effect would be issued on Friday.

Petitioners who have challenged the validity of Aadhaar arguing that it violates right to privacy urged the SC bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, to have an early hearing to decide whether Aadhaar should be stayed.

CJI Dipak Misra told them that a five-judge constitution bench may sit next week to decide their plea for stay on Aadhaar, said media reports.

Attorney general KK Venugopal said there could not be a stay on Aadhaar as it has gone on for years. He reportedly said that the Centre was ready to argue the matter.

He also made it clear that February 6 next year would remain the deadline for linking Aadhaar for availing uninterrupted mobile services as it had been mandated by the apex court.

The A-G also reportedly informed the top court that a Data Protection Committee led by Justice Sri Krishna will submit its final report to the government by February 2018.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for those who are opposed to Aadhaar scheme told the SC bench that the central government should give an undertaking that no coercive steps would be taken against those fail to link their Aadhaar with various services.

The apex court on October 30 had said that a Constitution Bench would commence hearing on the clutch of petitions against Aadhaar scheme from the last week of November.

In August this year a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. This was expected to have a bearing on the decision on Aadhaar, which the petitioners allege is an infringement of this right.

Some petitioners have termed the mandatory linking of the UIDAI number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. They said the government could not compel citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or cell phone numbers.

Meanwhile, UIDAI, the authority which issues Aadhaar, said that the deadlines for verifying bank accounts, PAN cards and mobile SIM cards with the biometric ID stand ‘valid and lawful’, and there is no change in them.

While the deadline for verifying bank accounts and income tax Permanent Account Number (PAN) by providing Aadhaar is December 31, for SIM cards it is February 6. It said that as on date there is no stay from the Supreme Court on Aadhaar and its linking to various services.

“That Aadhaar Act being in force, all notifications for requiring Aadhaar for various welfare programmes, verifying bank account, PAN card and SIM card with Aadhaar stand valid and lawful,” it said in a statement.

“Today’s legal position is that there is no stay as on December 7, 2017 from the Supreme Court on Aadhaar and its linking to various services,” it added.

Notifications have been issued making Aadhaar mandatory for availing various welfare benefits such as public distribution services (PDS), cooking gas LPG, MNREGS, scholarships and pensions.

The Income Tax Act was amended in March 2017 to make Aadhaar mandatory for PAN cards. On June 1, 2017, PML Rules have been amended to make Aadhaar mandatory for linking all bank accounts, insurance, pension, mutual funds and DMAT accounts.

“Supreme Court too in Lokniti Foundation case through an order passed in February 2017 has approved verification of all SIM cards with Aadhaar,” UIDAI said.

The Apex Court has upheld the linkage of Aadhaar with PAN in the case of Binoy Viswam vs Union of India which mandates Aadhaar for income tax returns and PAN.

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