The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on making Aadhaar mandatory to file income tax returns and obtain a Permanent Account Number. The bench of Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan asked all parties concerned to file their written submissions by May 9.
While Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that Aadhaar was unique and could not be duplicated, the petitioners in the case argued that the system was not foolproof.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the Centre had argued that Aadhaar will help fulfil India’s international obligations in the fight against black money. Rohatgi had also dismissed cases against making the ID number mandatory, saying those arguments were the “luxury of the rich”. He had added that citizens do not have absolute right over their bodies, and that an array of laws and rules have already imposed limitations on this right.
The attorney general had also maintained that the PAN in the past could be obtained with a secondary document such as one’s ration card or driving licence, whose security features were not strong enough. This meant that the PAN was not foolproof in the manner in which it existed till date, and by linking Aadhaar to PAN, it would be made foolproof through biometric verification. “There are over 113 crore Aadhaar numbers and not a single case of duplication,” he had claimed.
On April 21, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for IT returns despite its repeated orders that the unique identification programme cannot be made compulsory. In March, the court had asserted that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for welfare schemes – as established in previous interim orders. This was after the bench had reminded the Centre in August 2015 that Aadhaar must be voluntary.