Will Centre use coercive steps for Aadhaar, asks SC

Deadline for linking of Aadhaar to all govt services postponed to 31st March, 2018

The government proposed extending the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones from December 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018, but only exclusively for those who are "willing to enrol for Aadhaar".

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra did not pass an interim order and said that it would hear all pleas challenging making Aadhaar mandatory for various schemes on 30 October. The government has assured that it would take no action against those who do not have Aadhaar and will not be denied social welfare scheme benefits till March 31.

This is the second time that the Centre has extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar to welfare schemes, which it says is aimed at weeding out ghost beneficiaries and prevent pilferage.

Taking note of his statement, the court sought a clarification whether the government would desist from taking any coercive action against those not linking Aadhaar with bank accounts, PAN, mobile numbers and other schemes during this extended period. Venugopal told the court that the Justice B Srikrishna panel, constituted by the Centre to draw up a data protection policy, is reviewing the entire issue of data protection. The new rule is explicitly for those who are not in possession of Aadhaar.

Divan pointed out that till the court does not decide to expeditiously hear the matters before March 31, civil liberties of citizens will be subject to grave peril. "Surprisingly, at the same time, it is ready to invoke money laundering penal provisions if one does not link bank account with Aadhaar". When the Attorney General said that he wanted to take instructions on certain issues, the bench asked the Centre to mention the matter before it on Monday.

With petitioners remaining adamant on an early hearing, Venugopal said the government had no objection if a constitution bench heard and expeditiously decided the validity of Aadhaar.

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