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Speakers laud judgment, say it balances right to life with right to privacy and protects citizens from data theft and identity fraud risk emanating from unscrupulous private operators

Concluding a long debate on the security and necessity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court has on Wednesday allowed linking of Aadhaar with the Permanent Account Number (PAN), which is mandatory for filing income tax return (ITR) but said it is not mandatory to link bank accounts with the 12-digit personal identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India.

The verdict was announced by a five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan. The apex court had reserved the verdict after hearing petitions for over 38 days starting January 17 this year.

In its landmark judgement, the Supreme Court said benefits under the Aadhaar project should be in the nature of welfare schemes and it cannot be made compulsory for services such as bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions. No private company or bank can ask for an individual’s Aadhaar number, the court said.

The much-awaited verdict on the matter comes after a clutch of petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the system on the grounds that it violates privacy.

The landmark judgement was chosen to be discussed during APN’s flagship show, Mudda, on Wednesday afternoon. The participants of the debate were: Vijay Kahira, leader of BJP, Anshu Awasthi, Congress spokesman, Justice AN Mittal, chairman of the UP Law Commission, Pallav Sisodia, Supreme Court senior advocate and Govind Pant Raju, consulting editor at APN. Himanshu Dixit anchored the show.

Awasthi said Aadhaar should be treated as the individual’s identity. But the Modi government made Aadhaar mandatory in most day-to-day affairs. Even private companies were allowed to access its details. However, the Supreme Court has objected to this malpractice.

Awasthi said the Congress party welcomes the Supreme Court’s judgement which would be quite helpful for the citizens of the country. Otherwise, the people have suffered a lot under the present government, he said.

Khaira said the Supreme Court has given a balanced judgement allowing the government to link Aadhaar with the PAN card, which will help reduce tax theft. This will help in disbursing government welfare schemes benefits to the last person. The Modi government should be congratulated for ensuring linkage of Aadhaar with the PAN card.

Justice Mittal said that individual privacy has been compromised even without using the Aadhaar card. Business houses have been breaching the individual’s privacy by sharing info about their clients with one another. He said that generally hotel and other travel service providers start aggressive marketing immediately after you buy an air ticket. Technological progress has been making life easier but it is denying us the freedoms necessary to enjoy it and live it to the fullest.

Sisodia said that the apex court’s verdict is a balanced one. Raju said that the Modi government’s intention has only been to curtail economic corruption and make subsidies available to the needy.

He said that from now onwards every individual will need the PAN card for submitting ITR which would not be provided without Aadhaar. This will definitely reduce the number of economic offences in the country.

—Compiled by MA Kazmi

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