The Supreme Court will pronounce its judgement tomorrow on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of a provision in the Income Tax Act making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and allotment of PAN. A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had on May 4 reserved the verdict on the pleas, challenging section 139AA of the Income Tax (I-T) Act, which was introduced through the latest budget and the Finance Act, 2017. Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form for filing of income tax returns and making application for allotment of PAN (Permanent Account Number) with effect from July 1 this year. While opposing the government’s move, the petitioners, including CPI leader Binoy Viswam, have contended before the bench that the Centre cannot “belittle” the apex court’s 2015 order holding the unique identification number as voluntary.
They argued that government should not have enacted section 139AA in the Act to make Aadhaar mandatory for PAN as the apex court’s five-judge bench order was clear that Aadhaar was voluntary and not mandatory. However, the Centre had contended that Aadhaar was made mandatory for allotment of PAN to weed out fake cards which were used for terror financing and circulation of black money. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had told the bench that the programme of PAN had become suspect as it could be faked, while Aadhaar is a “secure and robust” system by which the identity of an individual could not be faked. Rohatgi had said that with the implementation of Aadhaar, the government had saved over Rs 50,000 crore on various schemes to benefit the poor as well as pension schemes.
The Centre had also told the court that fake PAN cards were being used to “divert funds” to shell companies. During the hearing, the Supreme Court had observed that it was yet to be “tested” whether Aadhaar violated protection of life and personal liberty granted under Article 21 of the Constitution, which was pending hearing for an authoritative pronouncement by a five-judge Constitution Bench.