SC extends Aadhaar-linking deadline for mobile phones, bank accounts to March 31

With Supreme Court’s interim order, the deadline for linking Aadhaar with mobile services, banks and government welfare schemes is now extended to March 31, 2018.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2017 13:16 IST
Priyanka Mittal and Bhadra Sinha
Priyanka Mittal and Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar,Aadhaar linking,Aadhaar link deadline
Supreme Court in its interim order has extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar with mobile services, banks and government welfare scheme to March 31. Hearing in the case begins on January 10, 2018.(File photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the deadline for linking of Aadhaar with mobile phone services and opening of new bank accounts to March 31, 2018, amid legal challenges over the legitimacy of the government’s push to make the biometric identification program mandatory.

The five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also ruled that people can open new accounts by submitting the application number for Aadhaar, but that it had to be furnished to the banks by March 31.

The government had on Thursday asked the top court not to make any changes in its directive to make Aadhaar a necessary requirement for opening new accounts.

The bench, however, did not issue any stay on the linking of the unique identification number as sought by petitioners, who have opposed Aadhaar on the ground that it fringes upon the privacy of an individual.

The bench also clarified that its order would not affect an earlier judgement upholding theamendment in IT act that made Aadhaar mandatory for PAN.

The deadlines for linking Aadhaar with existing bank accounts, PAN cards and welfare schemes were already extended to March 31 by the government. Mobile phone SIM cards have to be linked by February 6.

The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions seeking interim relief from mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, mobile phone numbers and other services.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Misra, justice DY Chandrachud, justice AK Sikri, justice AM Khanwilkar and justice Ashok Bhushan was constituted on December 13 after repeated attempts by the petitioners for an early hearing on the issue of mandatory Aadhaar linking.

Attorney general KK Venugopal told the court that the government was willing to extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar with all services to March 31, with the exception of mobile phones and new bank accounts.

The government submitted that new bank accounts were being opened under schemes like the Jan Dhan Yojana and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Aadhaar was being linked only for the purpose of identification.

Shyam Divan, a senior advocate and one of the petitioners, argued that Aadhaar number is being linked to services such as availing of scholarships, nursery admissions and medical treatment for HIV patients in violation of the top court’s orders.

“The government has disregarded the court’s earlier orders that continue to have full sanctity and say that until the apex court takes a final decision on Aadhaar, it cannot be made mandatory for all services,” Divan said.

He added that the government should have sought a variation of orders limiting the mandatory use of Aadhaar.

Chief Justice Misra, however, observed that the court’s earlier orders were passed based on the government’s executive decision and needed to be tested on anvils of the law - now that the Aadhaar act is in place.

The top court referred all Aadhaar cases to the constitution bench on October 30. It had earlier tagged 22 cases to be heard by a smaller bench.

The cases challenge several aspects of Aadhaar, including the use of data collected under the unique identification programme.

Two new pleas challenging Aadhaar linkage—one by the West Bengal government on the mandatory linking to various schemes and another challenging its mandatory linking with mobile numbers—have also been brought to the court.

The court will now begin hearing arguments on the validity of Aadhaar on January 10.

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 11:28 IST