The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it will extend the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar for availing various services and welfare schemes till March 31. The deadline for Aadhaar linkage for these services is currently December 31. Attorney-general KK Venugopal told a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the government intends to issue a notification on Friday (December 8), extending the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with services from December 31 to March 31, 2018. This extension will include 139 government subsidies, benefits or services like the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts but not the linking of mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar, he said. The deadline for linking of mobile phone numbers with the 12-digit unique biometric identification number is February 6. The attorney-general, however, made it clear that February 6 next year would continue to remain the deadline for linking Aadhaar for availing uninterrupted mobile services as it had been mandated by the apex court.
He said that it would require a judicial order from the top court itself to extend the deadline to March 31, 2018, as the government was complying with its another order of February 6, 2017 in the Lok Niti Foundation case that directed the verification process of mobile phone users through Aadhaar linkage, citing national security. The bench assured the parties that it will set up a five-judge Constitution bench next week to hear several pleas seeking an interim stay on the Centre’s decision on mandatory linking of Aadhaar. It indicated that it would be left to the bench to give dates for the final hearing of the petitions.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners opposed to the Aadhaar scheme, argued that that the central government should give an undertaking that no coercive steps would be taken against those who fail to link their Aadhaar with various services. The hearing also assumes importance as a nine-judge Constitution bench had held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution. The petitions had challenged several aspects of Aadhaar scheme, including the mandatory parting of biometric details like iris scans and fingerprints, thus alleging violation of the citizens’ right to privacy.
Some petitioners have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as “illegal and unconstitutional”. Earlier, the Supreme Court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes, but had allowed the government to use unique ID for a large number of purposes like welfare schemes and income tax return filing, with a rider that it would not be made mandatory.