SC stays 31 March deadline for mandatory Aadhar linkage

The Supreme Court has extended the March 31 deadline for linking Aadhaar to mobile phones and bank accounts.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is currently hearing a batch of petition , challenging its validity.

However, this extension will not apply for availing services and subsidies,  pension and employment schemes.

The apex court court said that a biometric ID is mandatory for accessing social welfare schemes and subsidies, but till it decides on whether the government's demand for Aadhaar to be linked to private and public services is a violation of the right to privacy, the 12-digit unique number given to each citizen does not have to be linked to other services.

In December last year, the top court had extended till 31 March 2018 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes and private services like banking and telecom services.

A judgment in the case, is unlikely before the 31 March deadline, as the various petitioners are still arguing, with the government's arguments to follow.

Last week, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the government was open to extending the deadline.

He told the top court, ''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 had said.

Over the past several weeks mobile phone service providers and banks resumed messaging clients to link one's Aadhaar to their account or mobile phone by March 31.

Today's order makes it clear that the 31 March deadline has been stayed until the Supreme Court passes its verdict in the case.

Aadhaar, the world's biggest biometric database, was introduced by the Manmohan Singh government in 2009 to streamline welfare payments and reduce pilferage by the unscrupulous.

Since 2014, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to mandate the use of Aadhaar for everything from filing income tax to the registration of mobile phone numbers and booking railway tickets, and for casting your vote. Aadhaar is now mandatory for welfare, .

The Constitution Bench headed by the chief justice of India is hearing challenges to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy on petitions filed by by former Karnataka High Court Judge K S Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, and others.