Almost daily people in India are getting tens of messages from their banks, phone service providers and various other companies and agencies that they must link the Aadhaar number to bank accounts and phones numbers etc before March 31. However, the central government has told the Supreme Court, which is hearing a constitutional challenge to Aadhaar programme, that it is open to extend the March 31 deadline to link Aadhaar with phone numbers and bank accounts. The government has said that the deadline could be extended in case the decision in the Aadhaar case doesn’t come before March 31.
According to news agency PTI, the Centre has said that more time would be needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case and hence the government may extend the deadline from March 31.
A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan agreed with the contention of Attorney General K K Venugopal.
“We have extended the deadline in the past and we will extend the deadline again but we may do it by the end of month to enable the petitioners in the case conclude the arguments,” Venugopal said.
The bench said, “It is a very valid point raised by the Attorney General and the court would not allow repetitive arguments made by the petitioners counsel in the matter.”
On December 15 last year, the Supreme Court had extended the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes to March 31. At the same time the Supreme Court had announced that it would start hearing in the Aadhaar case from middle of January.
Earlier senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is leading the arguments that challenge Aadhaar and its enabling Act, said the deadline of March 31 should be extended as it was highly unlikely that the hearing in the case challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act would be concluded in time to meet the deadline.
“The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes is March 31. This will have all India ramification as various institution would have to adjust themselves accordingly,” Divan said.
Justice Chandrachud said even if the court reserved its verdict on March 20, the banks and other institution would have only 10 days left, which might be difficult. The bench then called the Attorney General for assistance in the issue. At the end of the day’s hearing, Venugopal appeared before the bench and made the statement about the possibility of extension of the deadline.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who argued against the Aadhaar scheme, said it violated the fundamental rights of citizens. The hearing continues. Once the arguments by the counsels representing the petitioners conclude, the government will start its defence.
Earlier on February 22, former Karnataka High Court judge Justice K S Puttaswamy had told the apex court that several deaths had reportedly taken place due to starvation on account of glitches in the Aadhaar-based public distribution system and the court must consider granting them compensation.
He had urged the bench to consider granting compensation to those who had suffered on the ground of exclusion due to Aadhaar, particularly the kin of the starvation death victims.
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