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Decision comes a day after Centre informed SC that it was willing to extend deadline for mandatory Aadhaar-linking with various services and schemes till March 31

As a legal battle continues in the Supreme Court against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s insistence of getting all citizens to mandatorily link their Aadhaar numbers with various welfare schemes and services, the Union finance ministry, on Friday, extended till March 31, 2018 the deadline for linking PAN numbers with the Aadhaar.

This is the third time within this year that the Union finance ministry has been forced to extend the deadline for Aadhaar-PAN linking. The deadline for linking PAN with Aadhaar previously was July 31but was extended to August 31 and then to December 31, 2017.

The Union finance ministry’s decision on extending the Aadhaar-PAN linking deadline till March 31 next year comes a day after the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that it was willing to extend till March 31 the deadline fixed for all Indian citizens to mandatorily link Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes.

The government wants all Indians, their age, social status or even consent notwithstanding, to link register for the unique biometric identification Aadhaar number with their mobile phone numbers, bank accounts, birth certificates, et al. The Modi government’s seemingly autocratic insistence on the issue has led to a bunch of petitions being filed in the Supreme Court challenging the move. A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is likely to be set up next week to hear these petitions which are currently being heard by a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar.

On Friday, Attorney General KK Venugopal had vehemently opposed before the three-judge Bench the plea of senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for those opposing the Aadhaar scheme, that the ongoing Aadhaar enrolment process be stayed.

“There cannot be a stay on the Aadhaar scheme which has gone on for years,” Venugopal had argued, adding that the current deadline of December 31 will be extended till March 31 next year and a notification to this effect may be issued on Saturday.

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 had claimed it violated privacy rights.

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