The Supreme Court questioned on Friday the government’s decision to link people’s Aadhaar unique identification with their permanent account number (PAN), which is necessary to file income tax returns and make high-value transactions.
The top court had ruled before that Aadhaar, a biometric-based 12-digit unique identity number, wouldn’t be necessary for a host of services and welfare schemes, other than government benefits such as food under the public distribution scheme.
“How have you made Aadhaar mandatory despite our order saying it is optional? Don’t you have any other way to tackle fake identities?” a bench headed by Justice AK Sikri asked, and agreed to hear a petition challenging the government’s move.
The bench is expected to pass an order in the next hearing on April 25.
The court’s remarks were in response to attorney general Mukul Rohatgi argument that the step was taken to weed out fake PAN cards used by unscrupulous people to launder ill-gotten money.
The government decided this March to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and to apply for a PAN. Also, the Centre suggested that PAN cards could become invalid if not linked with Aadhaar by this yearend.
Rohatgi said authorities have detected instances of people providing details of PAN cards procured through false documents and cases abound of individuals holding multiple PANs, primarily for dubious activities such as diverting funds to shell companies.
The bench was not convinced with attorney general’s argument, and asked: “Is this the remedy (to make Aadhaar mandatory)?”
The government had amended the tax proposals in its annual budget’s finance bill to accommodate its step to link Aadhaar with PAN. But it denied breaching the top court’s order in the amendments to the law.
The Centre said the court order is meant for social welfare schemes, not for services such as driving licence and PAN cards.