The Centre told the Supreme Court Thursday that it would extend the last date for linking Aadhaar to various schemes from December 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018. The deadline for linking the unique identification number to a bank account too will be extended to March 31, but this relief will be only for a person who does not have an Aadhaar card yet.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud that the government will come out with a notification to this effect on December 8.
The Attorney General, however, clarified that the deadline for linking Aadhaar to mobile phones will remain February 6, 2018 in view of the Supreme Court’s February 6, 2017 order. That ruling was in the Lokniti Foundation case in which the Centre told the court that it had launched Aadhaar-based E-KYC for issuing new connections and that “existing subscribers, can also be verified by putting in place a mechanism, similar to the one adopted for new subscribers”.
The government had submitted that “an effective programme for the same, would be devised at the earliest, and the process of identity verification will be completed within one year, as far as possible”. Describing the process initiated for new subscribers as “effective”, the Supreme Court had said it hoped that a “similar verification” would be completed for existing subscribers within a year. It was on the strength of this order that the government embarked on Aadhaar-based identity verification of existing subscribers.
On Thursday, Venugopal submitted that the government would require a judicial order to extend this deadline. He made the submissions when senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair, appearing for the petitioners in a clutch of matters challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, mentioned the matter before the CJI-led bench and sought urgent hearing.
Chief Justice Misra orally assured them that a Constitution Bench would hear them next week on the question of providing interlocutory reliefs. He indicated that it would be left to the bench to give dates for the final hearing of the petitions. Diwan urged the court to stay the ongoing Aadhaar enrolment scheme, but this was opposed by the Attorney General. “There cannot be a stay on the Aadhaar scheme which has gone on for years,” he said.
Venugopal said he was ready and willing to argue the case finally and no interim stay should be granted in such an important matter. When the matter was heard last on October 25, the Centre had told the court that it was open to extending until March 31, 2018 the deadline for linking Aadhaar to various programmes for those don’t have the unique identity number yet. It, however, qualified the statement saying the extension would apply only to those willing to enrol for the scheme.