Never directed linkage of mobile numbers with Aadhaar, clarifies SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday clarified that it had not ordered mandatory linkage or seeding of mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar, and said the government misinterpreted its 6 February 2017 observations to insist on it.

"In fact there was no such direction from the Supreme Court, but you (the Union government) took it and used it as a tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.
In February 2017, a five-judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice, hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law, said in its order on a PIL filed by 'Lokniti Foundation' that mobile users needed to be verified in the interest of national security.
“In the Lokniti Foundation case, the SC has not directed linking of SIM with UID. But the Union government’s circular says so. There was no direction by the court,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) notification talked about re-verification of mobile numbers by using e-KYC process, and the Telegraph Act gave "exclusive power to central government to decide license conditions" of service providers.
But the bench riposted, "How can you (DoT) impose condition on service recipients for seeding Aadhaar with mobile phones?" It added that license agreements were between the government and the service providers.
The bench set the record straight when Dwivedi argued that one-time seeding of mobile number with Aadhaar was not a big task and would not lead to intrusion into citizens’ privacy as no call records were maintained through Aadhaar.
The UIDAI’s insistence that the Supreme Court had mandated that all mobile connections be linked with Aadhaar had led to a scramble of sorts, with mobile service providers, nudged by the government, inundating subscribers with dire messages on the need to abide by the alleged order.
The SC on 13 March indefinitely extended the deadline for linkage of Aadhaar with mobile numbers and bank accounts of individuals and asked the government to wait till the constitution bench decided the validity of Aadhaar before taking further steps in this regard.