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No relief from SC for social schemes where Aadhaar is mandatory

The Supreme Court of India has refused to provide any further clarification regarding notifications issued by the Government of India making Aadhaar mandatory for 17 different social service schemes, including the Mid Day Meal scheme, reports Bar&Bench. The SC said that the judgement issued in the Aadhaar-PAN case of June 9, 2016 already addressed this concern.

The petitioners’ lawyer pointed out that there still were ambiguities in the interpretation of Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, but the SC reiterated that the judgement in the Aadhaar-PAN was sufficient for now.

The next hearing, in this case, will be on July 7, 2017.

Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act says:

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 enrollment:

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.

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On the issue of extension of deadline to submit Aadhaar for these social schemes until September 30, 2017, the petitioners’ lawyer pointed out that the extension was only for those who haven’t yet enrolled for Aadhaar and not for existing Aadhaar card holders, who either could not or don’t want to link their Aadhaar numbers to these schemes, and that the extension of the deadline should encompass these people as well. However, the Court stuck to what it had said in the Aadhaar-PAN linkage case that those who already have an Aadhaar card will have to link it and those who don’t have an Aadhaar card can avail the benefits using any other valid identification card.

Aadhaar-PAN ruling

Earlier this month, the SC ruled that the Indian government cannot cancel PAN cards if citizens don’t link an Aadhaar number to their PAN card. The PAN card is a necessary document for filing taxes. In what is a partial stay, the Court said that those who do not have an Aadhaar card should not be forced to get one. However, those who hold a PAN card, will need to connect it to Aadhaar. They have this written down in Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, but held it constitutional while also saying that the “Parliament needs to consider toning down the provision.”

The court also highlighted the issue of leakages of personal data and Aadhaar numbers online, creating security concerns for citizens, and said that “this is a concern that needs to be addressed by the government”, adding that severe penalties need to be applicable in case of data leakages, calling preventive measures “essential”.

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