The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to banks, telecom services and other services may be further extended beyond March 31, the Centre indicated to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. This is the latest in a series of non-committal flip-flops by the government when it comes to expanding the linkage to Aadhaar to critical services.

The Centre said that since some more time would be needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case, the government may extend the deadline from March 31.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan agreed with the contention of Attorney General K K Venugopal.

The AG said that the deadline has been extended in the past and may be extended again at the end of the month to enable petitioners in the Aadhaar case to conclude their arguments in front of the apex court.

On December 15 last year, the apex court had extended the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes till March 31.

Earlier senior advocate Shyam Divan, who had led the arguments challenging Aadhaar and its enabling Act, said that the deadline of March 31 must be extended as it was highly unlikely that the hearing in the case challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act will be concluded.

Justice Chandrachud commented that even if the court reserved its verdict on March 20, the banks and other institution would have only 10 days left, which might be difficult.

The bench then called the Attorney General for assistance in the issue following which he suggested that an extension of the deadline may be possible.

The Aadhaar hearing

In January, a 5 judge Constitution bench began hearing the arguments to decide the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar project, almost seven years since the first challenges to the Aadhaar project. The long-standing case had been delayed when the Attorney General had argued in 2015 that the citizens have no fundamental right in India to privacy and the matter was finally resolved when the 9-judge Constitution Bench delivered a historic and unanimous judgement asserting that the right to privacy was indeed a fundamental right last November.

Read MediaNama’s coverage of the hearings here.