The Supreme Court on Friday will pronounce its judgement on whether Aadhaar should be made mandatory for filing income tax returns and allotment of PAN cards. On May 4, the bench headed by justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had reserved their verdict on a batch of petitions that challenged Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, which was introduced through the latest budget and the Finance Act, 2017.
While Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had argued that Aadhaar was unique and could not be duplicated, the petitioners in the case had said that the system was not foolproof. “There are over 113 crore Aadhaar numbers and not a single case of duplication,” Rohatgi had claimed.
The Centre had also 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.
Rohatgi had further argued that even with a low verification rate of 0.2% per year, at least 10 lakh PANs had been found to be fake. In one case, a person managed to evade taxes of Rs 5,000 crore by obtaining a complex web of PANs. By linking Aadhaar to PAN, the latter was also being made foolproof since a person would be locked to a single PAN through biometric verification.
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.