The Delhi High Court has allowed two individuals to file their income tax returns without having to furnish an Aadhaar number or link their Aadhaar with PAN; and has directed the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) to amend the income tax return form to enable an “opt out” button from having to produce an Aadhaar number.

In June, the CBDT had extended the deadline for Aadhaar-PAN linkage to March 31, 2019. This was the fifth time the Centre extended the deadline for individuals to link their PAN with Aadhaar number.

High Courts have exempted petitioners earlier

A two-judge bench of the high court reiterated that in an earlier case, it had relieved petitioners from furnishing an Aadhaar number for filing tax returns. The bench also cited a case when the Punjab & Haryana High Court had directed that petitioners’ returns be accepted “without indicating any linkage with Aadhaar No./quoting Aadhaar enrolment No. or quoting Aadhaar No. with PAN details”, and also cited the CBDT circular extending the deadline.

“The petitioners hold valid Indian passports, and PAN cards, other among valid forms of identification, needed to file ITR. However, despite having all other documents, they have not been able to file their ITR electronically for the want of an Aadhaar or Aadhaar Enrollment number, which they do not possess.” said their plea. The last date for filing income tax returns for FY 2018-19 is 31st of July.

Introduced as an amendment to Income Tax Act, 1961, in 2017, Section 139AA of the act mandates the furnishing or quoting of Aadhaar for filing of income tax. The provision was upheld as non-violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The SC held that those who had not yet enrolled in the Aadhaar were free to file ITR without quoting the number, until the pronouncement in the right to privacy matter. The Constitution Bench later declared that right to life under Article 21 includes right to privacy as per judgment in other case.

Madras HC relieved nine petitioners from furnishing Aadhaar

A two-judge division bench of the Madras High Court also allowed nine petitioners to file their income tax returns without quoting Aadhaar or an Aadhaar enrolment number for the FY 2018-19. The bench made the decision noting that the larger matter of constitutionality of the Aadhaar is under question in the SC. The bench noted that until a judgment is delivered in the SC, Aadhaar remains a “purely voluntary scheme both under the Aadhaar Act, and under a series of orders of the Supreme Court” along with the deadline extension by the CBDT.