Even as the Centre has made Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns, along with availing benefits under the flurry of schemes, the Supreme Court on Monday said that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for extending benefits of government’s welfare schemes.
The court, however, added that government cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other schemes like opening of bank accounts.
A bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul also told that a seven-judge bench needed to be constituted for authoritatively deciding a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme on grounds including that it infringes on the Right to Privacy of citizens.
It, however, expressed inability in setting up of the seven-judge bench saying it would be decided at a later stage.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, alleged that the Central government is not following the past orders by the apex court that the usage of Aadhaar would be voluntary and not mandatory.
The apex court on August 11, 2015 had said that Aadhaar card will not be mandatory for availing benefits of government’s welfare schemes and barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrolment under the scheme.
However, on October 15, 2015 it had lifted its earlier restriction and permitted the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards in welfare schemes that also included MGNREGA, all pension schemes and the provident fund besides ambitious flagship programmes like ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna’ of the NDA government.
In a latest development, the Central government has instructed telecom operators to re-verify all their existing subscribers of mobile services to go for Aadhaar-based eKYC process.
A notification issued by the telecom department has instructed all telecom operators to initiate the process regarding this.
Last week, speaking in Lok Sabha while replying to the debate on Finance Bill, Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that Aadhaar may become the only card required to identify a person, replacing Voter ID and PAN.
Moving 40 amendments to different laws, he told that Aadhaar number will be made mandatory for filing of income tax return from July as well as for applying for permanent account number.
“A stage may come when unique identity card (aadhaar) may become the sole card. There are many countries where such a situation exists. There is a social security number in America and in India it (Aadhaar) could be the counterpart,” he said.
Explaining the rationale behind making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns, Jaitley said the move is aimed at curbing tax evasion.
Earlier, the government has made Aadhaar mandatory for availing crop insurance policies from the upcoming kharif sowing season. The Agriculture Ministry has issued a directive to rural financial institutes to comply with the new rule from the kharif (summer) season starting April 1.
However, government’s move make Aadhaar card mandatory has been repeatedly opposed by the Opposition parties.
(With inputs from the Agencies)