Aadhaar deadline could be extended beyond 31 March, Centre tells SC

The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail of various services and welfare schemes run by the government may be further extended beyond 31 March, the Union government indicated in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Centre said the government was prepared to extend the deadline since some more time would be needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case.

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 suggestion of Attorney General K K Venugopal.

"We have extended the deadline in the past and we will extend the deadline again. 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 15 December last year, the apex court had extended till 31 March the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes.

Earlier senior advocate Shyam Divan, who had led the arguments challenging Aadhaar and its enabling act, said that the deadline of 31 March should be extended as it was highly unlikely that the hearing in the case challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act will be concluded by then.

"The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes is 31 March. This will have all India ramification as various institutions would have to adjust themselves accordingly," Divan said.

Justice Chandrachud said even if the court reserved its verdict on 20 March, banks and other institutions would have only 10 days left to implement Aadhaar verification, which might be difficult.

The bench then called the Attorney General for assistance in the issue.

Toward the end of today'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 would continue on Wednesday.

On 22 February, 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 compensation for these.