SC not against Aadhaar for PAN cards, I-T returns

Not must for welfare schemes: apex court

SC not against Aadhaar for PAN cards, I-T returns
The Supreme Court on Monday granted virtual approval to the government’s move to make Aadhaar compulsory for bank accounts, I-T returns and PAN cards. The court, however, reiterated that the government cannot make it mandatory for availing the benefits of different welfare schemes.

“If we understand the previous orders in the right context, we think you cannot enforce it (Aadhaar) for extending benefits,  but you can do it otherwise... something like for opening a bank account, it is not a benefit, so Aadhaar can be pressed for,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said.

“Filing income tax returns is any benefit? No. We don’t think so. You can ask someone to have a bank account on the basis of Aadhaar. That is not a benefit. But if you want to make it mandatory for a poor to get his meager pension, that could mean extending a benefit,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay K Kaul, said. The court made these observations even as it declined to grant a plea for a definite date for considering a batch of matters relating to the validity of Aadhaar.

The government had announced making Aadhaar, issued by the UIDAI, mandatory for income tax returns and PAN cards to avoid duplicity. It also issued directives to telecom operators to reverify users using Aadhaar following a nod from the apex court in a separate case.

Appearing for petitioner K S Puttaswamy, senior advocate Shyam Divan pointed out that the government was coming up with notifications one after the other, making Aadhaar mandatory for different services and schemes.

Puttaswamy is a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court. Divan contended the apex court’s orders were being breached by the government. He said the court had categorically stated that no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, by making it voluntary only.

Divan also sought direction to set up a Constitution bench to deal with the issue. Disallowing the request, the bench said, “We think this will have to go to a seven-judge bench. It is going to take us some time to spare seven judges.”

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