It has been more than a week since the Delhi High Court on July 24 ordered the government to allow assessees to file their income tax returns online without using Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometrics-based unique identification number that India wants every resident to have. Yet, on August 2, the income tax department’s website still required Aadhar details to be entered for the process, noted the petitioners in the case.

They say that the government’s lawyer claimed that it had complied with the Delhi High Court’s directions. “He kept asking us to check the next day but the website is still not functioning,” said Tripti Poddar, the advocate for the petitioners. “The Delhi High Court’s order will complete two weeks soon. We will wait till the end of this week and later approach the court.”

The Aadhaar project is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court for violating fundamental rights, including the right to privacy. The judgement in the case has been reserved by the court. In March, a Constitution Bench said that until its final order is out, the government could not make the provision of services consequent on the user producing an Aadhaar number, except to avail of subsidies and welfare programmes. On June 30, the Central Board of Direct Taxes extended the deadline for taxpayers to link their Aadhaar numbers to their PAN numbers till March 31, 2019.

Seeking intervention

On July 20, activist Shreya Sen and human rights lawyer Jayshree Satpute had moved court on asking for a process to be established for them to file their income tax returns without providing their Aadhaar details. The income tax website, they noted, does not offer an option to do this. The Delhi High Court, on July 24, issued an order directing the Central Board of Direct Taxes, which runs the income tax returns filing website, to enable an “opt-out” option for assessees who do not want to provide their Aadhaar details.

The deadline for filing income tax returns had been set for July 31, though it on July 26 extended to August 31 .

According to Satpute, she and Sen tried to file their returns the day after the court order but the website still required them to enter their Aadhaar numbers. “We called the other side [Central Board of Direct Taxes], they said that we would be able to do it within 48 hours,” she said. Despite this assurance, the website was not altered.

Satpute said that she has still not been able to file her tax returns. “We have started to get queries from all over India about this,” she said. “The CBDT is in contempt.”

Design flaw sent queries about the matter to the Central Board of Direct Taxes. The story will be updated when the department responds.

Raghu Godavar, a member of Rethink Aadhaar, a campaign group launched by people concerned about the Aadhaar project, said users faced the same problem last year.

“I used a dummy number to file my taxes last year,” he said. “The process online doesn’t even verify if the Aadhaar number is accurate or not. It operates on an algorithm. There is no intent or thought behind this.”