SC extends deadline for linking Aadhaar till March 31 for welfare schemes

The Supreme Court on Friday extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes of all ministries and departments of the Centre, states and union territories.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in an interim order, considered the statement of the Centre that it was willing to extend the deadline for linking the national biometric identifier with all services and welfare schemes.

The bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said, "We accept the statement of the Attorney General of India and order accordingly, and hence, the deadline for Aadhaar linkage with all schemes of ministries and departments is extended till March 31 next year."

The top court agreed with the submission of Attorney General K K Venugopal that as far as linking Aadhaar with existing bank accounts was concerned, the process can be completed by March 31.

About the new bank accounts, it said the last date for completing the process of Aadhaar linking may be also extended and people desirous of opening new accounts will have to produce proof to the bank that he or she has applied for the card.

Taking note of the Centre's submission with regard to linking of Aadhaar with mobile services, the court modified its earlier order and said the deadline of February 6 next year for this purpose also stood extended.

"We also direct that the extension of the last date for Aadhar linkage to 31 March 2018 shall apply, besides the schemes of the Ministries/Departments of the Union government to all state governments in similar terms," Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the unanimous interim order, said.

The order said the earlier apex court verdict, upholding the validity of an Income Tax Act provision making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of tax returns, will remain in force.

The court also made clear that the interim direction on extension of deadline "shall continue to operate pending disposal of the proceedings before the Constitution Bench" and fixed the clutch of petitions, challenging the Aadhaar scheme itself, for final hearing on 17 January, next year.

"We are of the considered view that the resolution of the issues raised before the court should proceed at the earliest, after the court reassembles in January 2018. This will ensure clarity for citizens on the one hand and for the Union and the state governments and the instrumentalities on the other hand," the bench said.

The bench was hearing pleas by several people, including former High Court judge Justice K S Puttaswamy, seeking an interim stay on mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various schemes.

Earlier, the Centre has expressed willingness to extend deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar for various services.

Recently, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar have claimed it violated privacy rights.

Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as "illegal and unconstitutional".

They have also objected to CBSE's alleged move to make Aadhaar mandatory for students appearing for examinations, a contention denied by the Centre.

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