The Supreme Court on Friday has upheld the constitutional validity of Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act which makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing IT returns from 1 July 2017 but refused to make it compulsory for those who do not have an Aadhaar card or are yet to apply for one.
Due to a petition filed by Binoy Vishwam, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India; Bezwada Wilson, a Dalit rights activist; and S.G. Vombatkere, a retired Army office, the court had begun hearing arguments on Aadhaar from 26 April 2017.
On Friday, the apex court has partially stayed the operation of Section 139AA, subject to the outcome of the constitutional bench judgement in the main Aadhaar case where its validity – if Aadhaar infringes on the Right to Privacy and if there exists a threat of data leakage – is being challenged.
Partial stay on 139AA (2). People who do not have Aadhaar may not apply for it for income tax returns.
— sflc.in (@SFLCin) June 9, 2017
This means that those who already have a Unique Identification (UID) number will need to link it to their PAN number, but those without Aadhaar can file IT returns as usual. The court has stayed retrospective invalidation of PAN for non-compliance.
The partial stay for people who are yet to enrol for an Aadhaar number will be as it is until a pending batch of petitions that questions the validity of the biometric authentication scheme is decided by a larger constitution bench of judges.
The Bench comprising Justice A.K Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan upheld the legislation competence of Parliament in enacting the law to this effect while clarifying that it has not touched upon the issue of Right to Privacy and other aspects of Aadhaar which are to be decided by the constitution bench.
Defending its decision to make Aadhaar card mandatory for filing one’s Income Tax returns, the government had earlier said the move would help identify fake and fraudulent financial accounts. It called the Aadhaar a “secure and robust” system by which anybody’s identity cannot be faked.
Senior advocates Arvind Datar and Shyam Divan had argued that the decision to link Aadhaar with PAN is legally unsustainable as the validity of Aadhaar is yet to be decided by the court.