The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes run by the government may be further extended beyond March 31, the Centre indicated in the Supreme Court today. The Centre said that since some more time would be needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case, the government may extend the deadline from March 31. A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan agreed with the contention of Attorney General K K Venugopal.
“We have extended the deadline in the past and we will extend the deadline again but we may do it by the end of month to enable the petitioners in the case conclude the arguments,” Venugopal said.
The bench said, “It is a very valid point raised by the Attorney General and the court would not allow repetitive arguments made by the petitioners’ counsel in the matter.” On December 15 last year, the apex court had extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes.
Earlier senior advocate Shyam Divan, who had led the arguments challenging Aadhaar and its enabling Act, said that the deadline of March 31 be extended as it was highly unlikely that the hearing in the case challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act will be concluded. “The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes is March 31. This will have all India ramification as various institution would have to adjust themselves accordingly,” Divan said.
Justice Chandrachud said even if the court reserved its verdict on March 20, the banks and other institution would have only 10 days left, which might be difficult. The bench then called the Attorney General for assistance in the issue. At the fag end of today’s hearing, Venugopal appeared before the bench and made the statement about the possibility of extension of the deadline.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who argued against the Aadhaar scheme, said it violated the fundamental rights of citizens. The hearing would continue tomorrow. Earlier on February 22, former Karnataka High Court judge Justice K S Puttaswamy had told the apex court that several deaths had reportedly taken place due to starvation on account of glitches in the Aadhaar-based public distribution system and the court must consider granting them compensation.
He had urged the bench to consider granting compensation to those who had suffered on the ground of exclusion due to Aadhaar, particularly the kin of the starvation death victims. Earlier, the top court had observed that the alleged defect of citizens’ biometric details under the Aadhaar scheme being collected without any law could be cured by subsequently bringing a statute.
It had said that the Centre came out with the law in 2016 to negate the objection that it was collecting data since 2009 without any authorisation, but the issue which needed consideration was what would happen if the data collected earlier, had been compromised.