Aadhaar to be linked to PAN, but SC wants safeguards, relaxed penalties: All you need to know

Top court upholds law making Aadhaar disclosure mandatory for those who have it and file income tax returns, but says penal action should be toned down

india Updated: Jun 11, 2017 17:52 IST
Binayak Dasgupta
Binayak Dasgupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A woman records her iris scans during enrolment to the Aadhaar programme, which creates a unique identification (UID) of a person with their biometric markers, their identity and address information. (HT FILE)

The Supreme Court upheld on Friday a law that makes it mandatory for Aadhaar-card holders to give their identity numbers while filing income tax returns and applying for permanent account number (PAN). The top court, however, struck down certain provisions and said a broader question about the programme’s privacy will be addressed by a separate constitution bench.

Key points about what Friday’s order means for individuals and the government:

1.Aadhaar is must for:

Filing a tax return, if you have a UID or have applied for one and were given an enrolment number.

Applying for a PAN card

2.But what if someone doesn’t have the unique ID:

The Supreme Court gave a breather to people who don’t yet have an Aadhaar card. It said the government cannot scrap their PAN enrolment, as it had planned to. At least not until a Supreme Court bench hearing the privacy concerns related to Aadhaar programme gives it ruling.

3.Punishing people who have but don’t declare it:

The court asked Parliament to consider relaxing the penalties for people who do not follow the rules on Aadhaar disclosure. It also said the cancelling of PAN numbers will be a prospective operation — that is, past transactions done on a PAN cancelled because a person did not declare their existing UID numbers will remain valid. Those transactions, the bench said, cannot be opened for scrutiny.

4.Ensuring the data is protected:

The court called for a “proper scheme” to deal with the problem of Aadhaar information being vulnerable to leaks. It suggested severe penalties for those found guilty of leaking Aadhaar data, which comprises the 12-digit unique number, biometric identifiers, address and phone numbers.

5.Recognising Parliament’s prerogative

The petitioners said the government went ahead with provisions making UID virtually mandatory despite the court’s orders that the programme was voluntary. On this, the court said the Parliament “was fully competent” to make such decisions and ensure the law was “not diluted by the orders of this Court.”

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 09:31 IST