The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict in a PIL challenging compulsory Aadhar card of filing income tax returns.
When Justice Bhushan intervened, observing that the voluntary nature of the Aadhaar Act dealt with only social benefit schemes while Section 139AA was a separate and fiscal provision, Mr. Datar argued that the ambit of a Supreme Court judgment can not be compartmentalised between welfare and no-welfare activities. As the Supreme Court questioned the government about this, the centre admitted for the first time that the leaks had taken place but passed the onus on to state governments.
The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear a petition against Aadhar link with Permanent Account Number (PAN).
The Supreme Court is hearing three petitions – by a retired Army officer, S G Vombatkere, Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson and senior CPI leader from Kerala Binoy Viswam – challenging the validity of the amendments in the I-T Act requiring tax-payers to provid their Aadhaar card details, too.
The Centre had earlier argued that Aadhaar was made mandatory for PAN cards to weed out fake PAN cards which were used for terror financing and circulation of black money. Then step by step they are making it mandatory. “To crack the 12-digit number of Aadhaar will take thousands of years”, he said. The court said that every individual has to follow the tax laws of the country while paying taxes. The arguments on so-called privacy and bodily intrusion are bogus.
He contended that Parliament could not have made Aadhaar mandatory without removing the basis of the Constitution Bench judgment on October 15, 2015 declaring Aadhaar’s use to be voluntary.
As per the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the unique identity number is mandatory only to receive social welfare benefits. Attorney General Rohtagi further said that the biometric technology and fingerprinting were so strong that there was no chance of duplicity.
“A right that is voluntary under Aadhaar Act can’t be made a penal provision under the Income Tax Act“, said Datar.
Mr Datar said there can not be a dichotomy between two laws passed by Parliament; while Aadhaar Act makes possession of Aadhaar card voluntary, the new law makes it mandatory for linking it with PAN.
The senior counsel was referring to two earlier orders of the top court which said that government could insist upon Aadhaar only for distribution of foodgrains, and LPG and other cooking fuel.