PAN holders with no Aadhar can also file I-T returns: SC

The Supreme Court has ordered a partial stay on Aadhaar-PAN linkage, reminding the Narendra Modi government that it needs to plug the loopholes on the privacy concerns surrounding the Aadhaar programme before any such move.

The apex court, however, allowed the government to continue with seeding of all existing Aadhar number with PAN, while making it clear that the government cannot force those who do not have an Aadhar number to obtain it for filing I-T returns.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court also ordered a partial stay on Section 139 AA of the Income Tax Act pending disposal of the pleas that Aadhaar infringes right to privacy before the constitutional bench of apex court.

As per the ruling those who have an Aadhaar number already will still have to seed it with PAN when filing the I-T returns, but the government cannot force those who have PAN, but no Aadhaar card to get one to file their tax returns.

The court said that those who have Aadhar cards must link their numbers to PAN. But no action will be taken if a person doesn't have an Aadhar number and they would also be able to file I-T returns.

The bench comprising justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that the Parliament was well within its right to enact such a law. However, the court stayed the provision that those who don't link their Aadhar with PAN cards will have their PAN cards cancelled.

The court left it for the Constitutional Bench to decide whether Aadhar card violates Right to Freedom enshrined in the Constitution. The bench also refused to touch upon the overall validity of Aadhar.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the court upheld the validity of the law till the Constitution Bench decides on the larger question. The court, however, said that the government must ensure the protection of Aadhar data.

''The government (has) to take proper and appropriate steps and the scheme in this regard has to be devised at the earliest to instill confidence among the citizens that the data would not be leaked,'' the bench said.