The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the March 31 deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with a range of services, including bank accounts and mobile phone connections, till it decided the constitutional validity of the 12-digit biometric identification scheme. However, it said that the extension will not apply to government services and subsidies under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra in its interim order said that this extension will not affect the linking of Aadhaar with the disbursal of benefits under social welfare schemes. Section 7 is related to targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services. This means those getting subsidy under government schemes will be required to give their unique identity number. The top court had on December 15, 2017, extended the deadline for linking of Aadhaar with mobile phones and opening of new bank accounts to March 31. The deadline is also applicable to the central and state government schemes.
The Constitution Bench is hearing around 30 petitions challenging several aspects of Aadhaar scheme. The petitions include the validity of Aadhaar and possible leakage of data, making Aadhaar mandatory for social welfare benefits and for filing income tax returns as well as for obtaining and retaining PAN, apart from the mandatory parting of biometric details like iris scans and fingerprints, thus alleging violation of the citizens’ right to privacy.
Besides, two other petitions challenging Aadhaar — one by the West Bengal government on the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to various schemes and another challenging its mandatory linking with mobile numbers — are also being heard. The petitions also include one by former Karnataka High Court judge KS Puttuswamy challenging the validity of the Aadhaar Act on the ground it violated the fundamental right to privacy.
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 the unique ID for a large number of purposes like welfare schemes and income tax return filing, with a rider that it will not be made mandatory. The petitioners will continue with their arguments on Wednesday.