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Aadhaar-PAN linkage deadline extended: But why link it in the first place?

The IT department stated that PAN cards that are not linked with Aadhaar numbers by March 31, 2023, will become “inoperative”

Aadhaar, PAN Card

Update: The deadline for linking PAN and Aadhaar has been extended to June 30, 2023 as per a press release by the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

Update: Following an RTI filed by MediaNama, the Direct General of Income Tax (Systems) said that 49.55 crore PANs were seeded with Aadhaar by January 2, 2023. This means that the Indian government has around two to three months to seed the remaining 1.4 crore PANs in India.

What’s the news: The Income Tax (IT) Department is back with a fresh deadline for individuals to link their Aadhaar card with their Permanent Account Numbers (PAN), reported News18. While the IT department has extended such deadlines many times before, regular intimations to Voter-ID holders for Aadhaar linkage indicate that the government is serious about going forward with these moves.

What is mandatory, is ‘necessary’?

On December 24, the IT department stated that PAN cards that are not linked with Aadhaar numbers by March 31, 2023, will become “inoperative”. In a tweet referring to the Income-Tax Act, 1961, the department pushed for the linking stating that “What is mandatory, is necessary. Don’t delay, link it today!” But is it really necessary? As MediaNama has pointed out before, there isn’t any particular study that suggests significant merit to a PAN-Aadhaar linkage.

Instead, publications like The Hindu have talked about how people were unable to link the documents in March 2019 due to different names on the two cards. PAN cards do not allow the use of initials, while Aadhaar cards do. Yet, the IT department insists that the linkage will help weed out tax evaders.

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Why this matters: Proponents of privacy have been approaching the courts to complain about Aadhaar and its many shortcomings. Randeep Surjewala, Congress Spokesperson, approached the Supreme Court in July this year to challenge the constitutionality of linking Aadhaar. Even here, it was argued that there is no study to prove the benefits of Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage. Meanwhile, retired Colonel Mathew Thomas has long since been trying to draw attention towards the fact that Aadhaar data is accessible to foreign companies. So, considering such privacy and security safeguard concerns, why is the Government of India trying to march on with this idea of Aadhaar linkage? What’s the point?

Sensitive regions and non-Indians exempt from linkage: According to a notification by the Union Finance Ministry in May 2017, only the people of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Meghalaya will be exempt from this linkage since they are considered non-residents under the Income-tax Act, 1961. Further, people who were 80 years of age or older at any point in the previous year and non-Indians are exempt from this provision.

Deadline pushed many times before: The repeated extension of the Aadhaar-PAN linkage deadline started on March 31, 2019. Since then, the last date for the same has been extended at least once or twice a year. In 2020, as many as 18 crore PAN holders were in danger of having their document deemed “inoperative” for failing to link to Aadhaar. We don’t know the latest figure in this context yet, however, recent coverage suggests that experts are wary of the unbridled linking of Aadhaar numbers with sensitive documents.

Note: This story was updated with the extended deadline for the linking process at 10 AM on March 29, 2023 as per an official document from the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

Note: This story was updated at 10 AM on January 11, 2023 to include the Department of Revenue’s response to MediaNama’s query.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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