Aadhaar-PAN linking deadline extended till Dec 31 but legal challenges over privacy remain

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 02, 2017 06:33 PM IST

People who do not have Aadhaar can file their Income Tax returns, but their returns will not be processed till they submit their Aadhaar number

The government on Thursday extended by four months, the deadline to link Aadhaar and PAN till December 31. This move comes at a time when a similar extension has been granted for furnishing Aadhaar to avail benefits of social welfare schemes.

The government has made Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns and applying for a PAN card.(AFP File Photo)
The government has made Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns and applying for a PAN card.(AFP File Photo)

“To facilitate ease of compliance by the taxpayers, CBDT has extended the date (for) ... linking Aadhaar with PAN till December 31, 2017,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

Also, the ‘due-date’ for filing Income Tax returns and audit reports has been extended by a month to October 31 for all taxpayers who were liable to file their returns by September 30, 2017.

The extension has to be read in the backdrop of the fact that Aadhaar is facing a slew of legal challenges on grounds that it breaches privacy, leaving officials to wonder if the government can still push ahead with its use in a wide range of services.

Read more: Govt wants mandatory Aadhaar for I-T returns

These concerns have heightened since the Supreme Court’s privacy judgement on August 24.

Government sources say that reading of the privacy judgement and other SC verdicts on the biometric-based identity scheme show that Aadhaar could lose its position of eminence against pre-existing identity proofs.

Joint readings of the apex court’s judgements since 2015 on Aadhaar reveal the SC has raised doubts about the legality of making the Aadhaar project the basis of availing citizens’entitlements.

In its landmark judgement on privacy, SC had referred the challenges to the Aadhaar scheme to another bench of judges that will begin hearing the matter from November.

But before that, the apex court from September 4 will start hearings into Jairam Ramesh’s challenge against the validity of Aadhaar Act.

“Aadhaar is a proof of identity of an Indian citizen. It is a proof of Indian residentship for people who have lived in India for at least 182 days. Aadhaar is not for availing benefits as a citizen or activities such as opening bank accounts, filing tax returns, passport applications,” said Gopal Krishna, member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties, one of the first petitioners against the Aadhaar programme.

Top sources in the government said that the tax department has been studying the privacy judgement to see if it contradicts the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with PAN for income tax returns (ITR).

Read more: How to link you Aadhaar with PAN card

“We are reading the judgement to see if it makes mandatory linking of Aadhaar and PAN for ITR legally untenable. We are in touch with the law ministry,” said a senior officer in the tax department.

The government had made it must for people to link their Aadhaar with their PAN for income tax returns (ITR) from this year and warned that those not adhering to the rule could lose their permanent account numbers.

Tax payers were also at the risk of facing legal proceedings if their PAN was cancelled, which could invalidate their ITR. The government said that this linking would stop duplication of PAN and dubious tax returns.

But this mandate was challenged at the Supreme Court leading to a verdict in June that restrained the government from initiating criminal proceedings against tax payers who do not link Aadhaar and PAN. But the verdict did not strike the government’s move to link the two for filing tax returns or for PAN application.

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    Suchetana Ray covers aspects of the government’s economic policy. A news junkie, she is invested in HT’s ‘digital first’ policy.

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