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No Aadhaar-link deadline till validity ruling

| | New Delhi
No Aadhaar-link deadline till validity ruling

The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the March 31 deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones till the Constitution Bench decides on the validity of Aadhaar. As such, no Central or State Governments can insist on production of the 12-digit Aadhaar number for issuing Tatkal Passports or providing service under any other Government schemes.

This order by a five-judge Constitution Bench would benefit citizens in a big way as the deadline for linking bank accounts and mobile SIM cards with Aadhaar was approaching fast. The extension order, however, will not apply to social welfare schemes such as Public Distribution Scheme, LPG subsidy, where Aadhaar will remain mandatory to avail benefits or subsidy under the scheme.

Even as the Centre seemed keen to extend the March 31 deadline, confusion prevailed among citizens as numerous petitioners came to the court with applications citing instances where Aadhaar was mandated for issuance of several services under various Government schemes. On Tuesday, a lawyer filed such an application pointing to the Passport (1st Amendment) Rules 2018 that required Tatkal Passport applicants to submit the Aadhaar number. Without it, the request for issuance of passport was not being processed.

The Bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan, asked Attorney General KK Venugopal whether it was true. The top law officer informed the Bench that such an order was passed in the interest of facilitating expeditious issuance of passport in order to benefit citizens. With this, he added, passport could be delivered prior to police verification.

The Bench referred to its December 15, 2017 order where it said neither the Centre nor the State Governments shall insist on compulsory production of Aadhaar number for any of its schemes. The A-G said this order was only with reference to linking of bank accounts and mobile SIM cards. Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who complained about the lawyer being denied passport, cited numerous other instances where Aadhaar was sought compulsorily for insurance claim, fixed deposits, NEET exam registration, and mutual funds.

“We passed our earlier order thinking that it will apply extensively to all fields. Now we have to say to the States and the Centre to hold your hands till we decide. Otherwise we will have one person or the other coming to us each day,” said the Bench. The A-G submitted that the Centre was open to extend the March 31 deadline but had reservation on discontinuing Aadhaar production for availing PDS and LPG subsidies.

The Bench accepted the Centre’s request and directed that except for the two schemes, Aadhaar will not be mandatory for any service or scheme till matter is finally decided by it. This will also include rules governing Tatkal Passport, it added.



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