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Relief from Aadhaar linking deadline till Supreme Court verdict

Supreme Court of India. File Picture
 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has indefinitely extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar numbers to bank accounts, mobile phones, insurance accounts and other such services till the time it gives its verdict on the constitutional validity of the scheme.

However, the government can make Aadhaar-linking mandatory for the receipt of subsidies and other social benefits paid from the Consolidated Fund of India, the bench said on a request from attorney-general K.K. Venugopal.

Tuesday's order will cheer millions of Indians who were being bombarded by banks and companies with messages saying the services would be disrupted unless they carried out the Aadhaar-linking within the previous deadline of March 31.

A five-judge constitution bench, which is dealing with a batch of public interest pleas that have challenged the legality of the Aadhaar scheme, is expected to conclude the hearing by the second week of April and pass the judgment in July.

"We direct that the interim order (of December 15 last year on the deadline) is extended till the matter is finally heard and the judgment pronounced," the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan said.

Citizens can now move a contempt plea if harassed by service providers over Aadhaar.

Tuesday's order came after activist-lawyer Vrinda Grover rushed to the apex court in the middle of a scheduled Aadhaar hearing to challenge the authorities' decision to cancel her passport for not possessing an Aadhaar card.

Grover said through senior advocate Arvind Datar that she had gone to the passport authorities here for the issuance of a new passport book as the pages in her existing passport were exhausted.

She said that although her passport was valid till 2020, the authorities cancelled it after she failed to furnish an Aadhaar card.

Datar told the court that although Grover mentioned the apex court's earlier orders against Aadhaar being made mandatory, the regional passport office refused to accept her plea.

He said the passport authorities cited the "(First Amendment) Rules, 2018" under the Passports Act that makes the production of the Aadhaar number or the Aadhaar enrolment number mandatory for the issuance and renewal of passports.

Grover, challenging the new passport rules in her petition, said she did not want to enrol for an Aadhaar card.

Datar cited nine earlier apex court orders passed since September 2013 that said Aadhaar could not be made mandatory till the court had ruled on its constitutionality. He said the authorities were breaching these orders with impunity.

These orders were passed on September 23 in 2013; on March 24 in 2014; on March 16, August 11 and October 15 in 2015; on September 14 in 2016, and on June 9 and December 15 in 2017.

On March 7 this year, the court said the Aadhaar card could not be made mandatory for students to take the all-India medical entrance tests.

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