Refusing to stay the linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers and bank accounts, the Supreme Court on Friday left the issue to be decided by a Constitution bench in November. However, it sought response from the government on various petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and linking of bank accounts and mobile numbers with the 12-digit unique biometric identification number. A bench led by Justice AK Sikri, while asking the public not to panic, told the government to direct mobile service providers and banks to specify the last dates for linking mobile numbers and bank accounts to Aadhaar in the SMSs and e-mails they send to their subscribers. Mobile service providers and banks have to specify that February 6, 2018 and December 31, 2017 are the last dates for linking Aadhaar to mobile numbers and banks, respectively.
It said that the question related to the validity of the Aadhaar scheme is scheduled to be heard in November-end and if by any chance the hearing is delayed or does not take place, the petitioners can seek extension for such linking from the Constitution bench. Attorney-general KK Venugopal agreed that there “is anyway time till December 31… heavens are not going to fall”.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar objected to how the government has threatened to close long-standing bank accounts if they are not linked to Aadhaar. He questioned how citizens can be asked to do so under money-laundering laws. Rule 2(b) of the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules of 2017 requires Aadhaar for opening new bank accounts and for verification of existing bank accounts by December 31, 2017, failing which the “bank accounts will cease to be operational”. Senior advocate Shyam Divan referred to a recently-filed affidavit by the Centre arguing that the government may extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar till March 31, 2018.
“There is no doubt that these arguments need consideration. The matter is going to come up in the last week of November and the time (to link Aadhaar with bank accounts) has been extended till December 31,” the bench said.