The Supreme Court Tuesday extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar cards to services, such as bank accounts and mobile phone connections, from March 31 till it decides on petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that its interim order of December 15, 2017, fixing the March deadline, “shall stand extended till the matter is finally heard and the judgment is pronounced”. The bench also includes Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.
The court specified that the direction shall also apply to the Tatkal passport scheme for which Aadhaar had been mandated. “It is also directed that the same shall also control and govern the Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018,” the court said. Advocate Vrinda Grover had approached the court, saying that she was asked to furnish the Aadhaar card when she contacted authorities regarding a Tatkal passport. Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, who appeared for Grover, said the March 31 deadline was creating confusion and requested the court to extend it.
Attorney General K K Venugopal said the Centre had no objection to the court extending the deadline. However, he requested that the move should not disturb the disbursement of subsidies under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. The court accepted the plea. Section 7 of the Act states: “…the Central Government or, as the case may be, the State Government may, for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from, or the receipt therefrom forms part of, the Consolidated Fund of India, require that such individual undergo authentication, or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or in the case of an individual to whom no Aadhaar number has been assigned, such individual makes an application for enrolment: Provided that if an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.”
Venugopal said the Centre had already submitted that it was prepared for the extension when the deadline ends by March-end.
Tuesday’s order also made it clear that the guidelines contained in the December order, allowing those who did not have Aadhaar cards yet to furnish the number of their Aadhaar applications for opening bank accounts, will continue to operate.
The interim order had stated that the extension would cover “the schemes of the Ministries/Departments of the Union government to all state governments in similar terms”. This will also remain in force.
Earlier, appearing for some of the petitioners, Senior Advocate and former union minister P Chidambaram contended that the government had introduced the Aadhaar Bill as a money Bill. Certain provisions of the Bill “clearly shows it was beyond a money Bill and if it was beyond a money Bill, it was a financial Bill,” he told the bench.
“It was not a money Bill when introduced and considered,” said Chidambaram. “It is a dangerous precedent. It has taken away the right of the Rajya Sabha to discuss and suggest amendments,” he argued.