People wait in queue at an Aadhaar camp in Agra, India. (Source: Twitter/ @UIDAI)

Supreme Court Extends Deadline For Linking Aadhaar

The Supreme Court today extended all deadlines for linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, mobile phones and other services indefinitely, till a judgement is pronounced in the matter.

The interim order for extension of the deadline was pronounced by the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra which is hearing challenges to the Aadhaar scheme and the Aadhaar Act.

Banks, telecom service providers, online wallets etc. have been urging customers to mandatorily link their Aadhaar to their accounts. On Dec. 15 last year, the Supreme Court had extended the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes till March 31, 2018.

India’s biometric identification program, which is the largest of its kind in the world, has faced hurdles ranging from privacy concerns with strong opposition from different factions on making it a compulsion. Concerns have been raised about the security of the Unique Identification Authority of India’s database and the potential damage that may follow if it is breached.

The top court, however, said the government may continue to seek the 12-digit national biometric identifier number of beneficiaries for transfer of benefits of schemes funded from the consolidated fund of India.

During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal requested the court that the extension of the deadline should not disturb the benefits, subsidies and services covered under Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

The provision states that Centre or state governments may seek Aadhaar for establishing the identity of beneficiaries of their schemes. It also says people, who have not secured Aadhaar number, can avail benefits of government schemes by establishing the fact that they have applied for the biometric identifier.

The provision also says those who have neither the Aadhaar card nor its enrolment number, can still avail the benefits, and would be offered alternative and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.

The requirement of Aadhaar for opening new bank accounts and Tatkal passports continues, the UIDAI said in a tweet after the Supreme Court’s order.

Senior advocates Arvind Datar and Shyam Divan informed the bench during the hearing that the government has come up with new Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018, by which Tatkal passports were issued only on furnishing Aadhaar.

Attorney General Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said Aadhaar is being taken only for issuing Tatkal passports and not for normal passports.

“Police verification of an individual is done after he or she is issued a Tatakal passport and for that purpose Aadhaar is being taken by the concerned authorities. In case of normal passport, pre-police verification is being done and for that purpose Aadhaar is not being taken,” Venugopal said.

(With PTI inputs)