Aadhaar linking: SC indefinitely extends deadline

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday extended indefinitely the March 31 deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones. The SC said that its interim order on not insisting Aadhaar, except for giving subsidy, will remain in force till the five-judge bench gives its judgment on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar. “The government cannot insist for mandatory Aadhaar even for issuance of Tatkal passport,” the Supreme Court said. December 15 last year, the apex court had extended the deadline for linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phone to March 31.
The apex court has further ruled that for now, citizens will not have to link their Aadhaar numbers to a range of services including bank accounts, mobile phones and passport. The top court said that a biometric ID is mandatory for accessing social welfare schemes and subsidies, but till it decides on whether the government’s demand for Aadhaar to be linked to private and public services is a violation of the Right to Privacy, the 12-digit unique number given to each citizen does not have to be linked to other services.
Aadhaar, now the world’s biggest biometric database, was launched in 2009 to streamline welfare payments and reduce wastage in public spending.
Since then, the NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been keen to mandate the use of Aadhaar for everything from filing income tax to the registration of mobile phone numbers and booking railway tickets. Aadhaar is now mandatory for welfare, pension and employment schemes. In January, Aadhaar was made mandatory not only for the renewal of passport, but also for new passports issued within three days under the tatkaal category – an order that has been challenged by activist Vrinda Grover.
The top court’s stand Tuesday means that a deadline of March 31 that was earlier declared for bank accounts and mobile phones to be linked to Aadhaar, has now been extended till it decides on whether the Aadhaar Act is illegal.
A group of petitioners have asked the Supreme Court to declare the government’s insistence on Aadhaar disclosure as a violation of the right to privacy.


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