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Centre willing to extend deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar till March 31

Supreme Court’s ruling would come as a temporary relief for people who are facing threats of their bank accounts being frozen and mobile connections snapped if they are not linked to Aadhar.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2017 23:30 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar card,Aadhaar,Link Aadhaar to bank
An Aadhaar card, containing a 12-digit identification number, is issued to individuals after collecting their biometric data such as retina scan and fingerprints.(AFP File Photo)

A five-judge constitution bench will hear next week a batch of petitions challenging the mandatory attaching of Aadhaar with various schemes and services even as the government said it was ready to extend the deadline for linking bank accounts till December 31.

On Thursday, Chief Justice Dipak Misra assured the petitioners of constituting the bench after they mentioned the matter before him demanding an early hearing.

Next week is the last working week for the top court before it shuts down for a 15-day winter break.

The government has argued that the 12-digit biometric identification number is necessary to plug leakages in its subsidised welfare programmes, to prevent corruption, and to protect national security but is opposed by critics and activists over fears of possible data breach and privacy concerns.

In a statement on Thursday, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said the notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for availing various welfare programmes as well as linking it with bank accounts, permanent account number (PAN) and phone SIM cards were still valid.

“There is no stay from the Supreme Court as on December 7, 2017 on Aadhaar and its linking to various services,” stated the press release.

The CJI agreed to hear the pleas despite attorney general KK Venugopal saying the government was willing to extend the deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts beyond December 31. However, the same would not be done for mobile phone connections for which the deadline is February 6, 2018.

The bench was not told whether the extension would be for all, including those who have Aadhaar. Earlier, the government took a stand that the relief would be only for those who do not have the unique identity number. Then, on October 30, it had said the deadline will not be extended at all.

Since the AG was silent on this, senior advocate Shyam Divan, the lawyer for the petitioners, told the court the Centre should give an undertaking that no coercive steps would be taken against those who chose not to part away with Aadhaar details. He said the government’s undertaking was conditional and insisted for a hearing next week, a plea the court accepted.

Several petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar law are pending in the top court.

The hearings were delayed after a larger question on the right to privacy was referred to a nine-judge bench.

First Published: Dec 07, 2017 11:35 IST