Starting next week, the Supreme Court will hear a clutch of petitions challenging the linking of Aadhaar with several services. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Thursday said a Constitution bench will hear the matter.
The Centre told the court that it was willing to extend the deadline to link Aadhaar with 139 services to March 31 from December 31 for those who do not have the unique identification number yet. This includes linking it with bank accounts, The Hindu reported. However, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that the last date to link Aadhaar with mobile numbers will continue to be February 6 as extending it to March 31 would require a judicial order.
Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the government will publish a notification on the Aadhaar-linking deadline on Friday.
Advocate Shyam Divan, representing one of the petitioners, objected to the government’s position and said the deadline should be extended even for those who have Aadhaar but have not linked it with various services.
“Either list the case next week for interim orders or let them give an undertaking that there will be no coercive steps taken even with respect to those who have Aadhaar,” he was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench. The attorney general said he was “prepared to argue on this point”.
The attorney general also told the court that the Data Protection Committee led by Justice Sri Krishna will submit its final report on the Aadhaar Act by February.
Meanwhile, the Unique Identification Authority of India clarified that notifications requiring Aadhaar for various welfare programmes, verifying accounts, Permanent Account Numbers etc are valid and lawful. The Supreme Court, it added, had not put a stay on linking the unique identification number with various services.
Having the unique identification number is compulsory to avail a number of services, including filing income tax returns. Last week, the government said it would make Aadhaar registration compulsory for children to get food under the National Nutrition Mission, while in November the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India directed companies to link Aadhaar with every individual policy.
In a landmark ruling in August, the top court had declared privacy a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Constitution. This was seen as a major blow to the Centre’s push for Aadhaar.