May 5, 2017 3:09:53 am
THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on a clutch of petitions challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income-tax returns even as petitioners against the plan charged that the step was fraught with dangers to the right of privacy and an “encroachment” on the court’s powers.
“The Supreme Court has already said what purposes Aadhaar can be used for. How then can the government make it mandatory for filing tax returns?…The sacrosanctness of the Supreme Court judgment must be protected,” senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioners, told a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.
He was referring to the Supreme Court’s orders of August 2015 and October 2016 allowing the government to use Aadhaar for distribution of food grains and cooking fuel, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, National Social Assistance Programmes like old age, widow and disability pensions, Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana and Employees Provident Fund.
“They started by saying it’s voluntary. Then step by step they are making it mandatory. Their argument will be if the whole of the country is agreeing, who are you to object… The moment minority cannot do what it wants to do, we have lost everything,” said Datar.
Referring to the amendment to Section 139A of the Income Tax Act, by which the new provision was introduced as Section 139AA, the counsel said: “Adding an additional A in section 139A is the first encroachment upon an SC judgment and it must be made clear to the government that you can’t do it till you remove the basis of the judgment.”
The court, however, said that its direction was to the government and not Parliament and wondered how it could stop the latter from exercising its powers.
Datar also cited Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s speech in Parliament during the debate on the Aadhaar law during which he had said that a man must have the choice to join or not.
On Tuesday, the Centre had told the court that the decision to make Aadhaar compulsory for filing I-T returns was primarily intended to check financial fraud and to prevent the effects of PAN duplication.
The counsel sought to know if the government had done any study on the issue of duplicate PAN cards before introducing section 139AA.
“What is the study you made before introducing this monumental change in 139AA. You only have data of 2005…What is the data you have placed before the court to say that X number of PAN cards are duplicate?” the counsel asked.
Datar said it was “legislative dichotomy” to make a law saying that Aadhaar is voluntary and later make another law making it mandatory. “Can the Parliament, which once made a law saying something is voluntary… pass another law making it compulsory?” Datar asked.
The Supreme Court is hearing three petitions — by a retired Army officer, S G Vombatkere, Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson and senior CPI leader from Kerala Binoy Viswam — challenging the validity of the amendments in the I-T Act requiring tax-payers to provid their Aadhaar card details, too.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.