Centre for Internet & Society

The Supreme Court, however, allowed the government to seek Aadhaar numbers to transfer benefits of government schemes funded from the consolidated fund of India.

The article by Priyanka Mittal and Komal Gupta was published in Livemint on March 13, 2018. Pranesh Prakash was quoted.

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday extended the deadline for linking of Aadhaar with mobile services, opening of new bank accounts and other services until it passes its verdict on a pending challenge to the constitutional validity of such linkages.

The court also noted that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory for issuance of a Tatkal passport, for now.

The extension would be applicable to the schemes of ministries/departments of the Union government as well as those of state governments, the court ruled in an interim order.

It was however, clarified that the extension would not be applicable for availing services, subsidies and benefits under Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan is hearing a challenge to the constitutional basis of the 12-digit unique identification project, which is now likely to conclude after 31 March, the earlier deadline for Aadhaar linking.

“Even where Aadhaar hasn’t been mandated by the government, and even though the Supreme Court has extended the deadline for some mandatory linkages, if the software systems used by various governmental and private entities don’t make ‘Aadhaar number’ and authentication optional, then the SC’s orders gets nullified, effectively,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at think tank Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).

Similar concerns over the extent of Tuesday’s interim protection were also expressed by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), an organization working to protect freedom in the digital world. “While the extension is certainly welcome, it is also important to note that there is currently some uncertainty about this extension and how it applies to linkages made mandatory under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. If the latest order does indeed exclude Aadhaar linkages mandated under Section 7, a large number of central and state government schemes (such as PDS, LPG, MNREGA and many more) would still need to be linked to Aadhaar by the end of the month, significantly diminishing the relief brought by today’s order, ” said the organization.

“The deadline for Aadhaar holders to link their PAN cards for taxation purposes will also be extended until disposal of the case as this linkage was mandated by Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, 2000 and not Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act,” SFLC added.

Last week, attorney general K.K. Venugopal had told the apex court that the centre would consider extending the linking deadline since arguments in the case were likely to proceed beyond the earlier deadline of 31 March.