As lawyers appearing for petitioners challenging the Constitutional validity of Aadhaar were getting ready on Wednesday morning to mention before the Supreme Court the issue of deadlines to link bank accounts and other documents with Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identification number the government wants every Indian resident to have, news broke that the Centre had extended the deadline for these tasks.
In a notification dated December 12, the Department of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance amended rules under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which mandated linking bank accounts with Aadhaar by December 31. The amendment extended the deadline for existing bank account holders to a date that will later be notified by the Centre. A release from the Press Information Bureau later said this date would be March 31, 2018. For those opening new accounts, a window of six months has been provided to quote their Aadhaar number.
In the meantime, Chief Justice Dipak Misra told lawyers who mentioned the Aadhaar matter before a bench headed by him that the case would be taken up on Thursday. This will be done by a Constitution bench comprising of at least five judges, which will go into the very validity of Aadhaar.
Violation of privacy?
However, while the deadline for linking bank accounts with Aadhaar has now been extended, there are other areas where the deadline of December 31 continues. These include mutual funds, insurance policies, employees pension scheme and many more. The deadline for linking mobile numbers with Aadhaar is February 6. Permanent Account Numbers will have to be linked by March 31.
The petitioners had been trying hard to get the court to expedite the matter. The court referred the matter to a Constitution bench on October 30 and said it would constitute such a bench by the end of November. This did not happen. On December 7, the court promised that the bench will be constituted by end of the week.
Those opposing the validity of Aadhaar are expected to seek a stay on compulsory linking for all schemes and documents before the Supreme Court on Thursday till the court decides the constitutionality of Aadhaar itself.
The fundamental argument against Aadhaar is based on the right to privacy, which a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously upheld in August. The petitioners have argued that by making Aadhaar compulsory for services, the Centre is violating right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has held is an intrinsic part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.