A day after the Supreme Court questioned the Department of Telecommunications directive to make it mandatory to link mobile numbers with Aadhaar, the Centre on Thursday said that the orders were actually issued by the apex court. Attorney General K K Venugopal, who appeared for the Centre, told the SC bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that there are “two” Supreme Court orders on the Aadhaar-Mobile number linking.
On Wednesday, a five-judge Constitution bench also comprising justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, which is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, had questioned the Department of Telecommunications’ move citing its February 2017 order in a PIL.
Venugopal made the submission just before the Bench was rising at the end of the day. He will contest the point regarding seeding of Aadhaar and mobile phone numbers when the matter is heard next week.
On Wednesday, Justice Chandrachud had said that verification of mobile phone users should be done in the interest of national security. The bench also asserted that the Department of Telecommunications had “used it as tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users”.
Meanwhile, Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for NGO Centre for Civil Society, said the linking Aadhaar with PAN for income tax will not help prevent financial frauds or curb black money. Advocate Sankaranarayanan referred to the various scams and said that none of these could have been avoided by using PAN-Aadhaar linkage. Putting for fraud cases like the Nirav Modi one, he said that giant corporates, rather than individual players, have been the main actors in these scams. “Black money is widely known to be stored by the corrupt in foreign banks which are beyond the reach of Aadhaar,” he added.
The bench, however, did not agree with his contention that Aadhaar was voluntary and said if a person wanted to avail subsidy benefits, then he or she will have to possess the 12-digit unique identifier. Justice Chandrachud said that Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act is not voluntary, and who wants subsidies will have to have Aadhaar. Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act states that central or state governments can make possession of an Aadhaar number or Aadhaar authentication mandatory for receipt of subsidies, benefits or services funded out of the Consolidated Fund of India.