Aadhaar-PAN card mismatch is real pain for some; why linking the two was a flawed step
The fundamental issue with the Aadhaar is that its scope is being widened by the government to areas where it was not intended to
The litany against the Aadhaar won’t die down until the government comes up with a reasonably meaningful explanation on why it is linked to all basic services that a citizen needs - from bank accounts to filing income tax returns.
Of late, the government has been publishing notification after notification making Aadhaar must for government services and subsidies, despite the Supreme Court's directive that it should not be made mandatory for availing services. In fact, the government even amended the Income Tax Act to include a section that makes Aadhaar number mandatory for filing returns. According to the latest rules, linking of Aadhaar number with the PAN has to be done before 31 July else the PAN card may become invalid.
This particular requirement is actually putting the public to trouble as the linking of Aadhaar with PAN is easier said than done. For the linking to be successful, the name, date of birth and gender in the PAN and Aadhaar have to match. While date of birth and gender may not be that big a problem, name is indeed a problem. For instance, it has to be remembered that women in India often change their name after marriage. Many may have got their PAN much earlier while Aadhaar was only recently introduced.
More importantly, according to a report in The Times of India, Aadhaar does not recognise special characters in names like D'Souza, while PAN does.
Why is anyone surprised that there are glitches with the Aadhaar, asks Gopal Krishna of the Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL). He contends that with the Aadhaar number being a biometric card with four numbers hidden beyond the 12-digit number given to the resident, linking the PAN with the Aadhaar would pose challenges.
He suggests a way out for those citizens who are finding it difficult to file IT returns due to errors in their Aadhaar card. Citizens should file the returns online and send a hard copy, attaching the Supreme Court's order on Aadhaar by Speedpost. “The IT department cannot say the citizen has not filed his return as the hard copy sent will go on record,” he says.
There is also a provision in the I-T Act for those who do not have a PAN card. This panic is being deliberately created, says Krishna, to persuade people to go in for Aadhaar.
While the Supreme Court is clear that enrolling for Aadhaar is not mandatory, through Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act passed by Parliament this March, the government of India has effectively made Aadhaar enrollment mandatory for receiving any subsidy, benefit or service for which expenditure is borne out of the Consolidated Fund of India, this report in The Economic Times said.
Since the government itself is not heeding what the Supreme Court has said, the citizens must follow suit and not give in to the government’s stubbornness, says Krishna. “Don’t politicians break the law all the time? The government has been proven wrong time and again in the courts. Even Mahatma Gandhi broke the Salt law in a bid to win freedom for the country. So I would urge citizens to go in for civil disobedience and the state will be forced to take cognizance of the impracticality of Aadhaar,” he suggested.
Anita Gurumurthy, founding member and executive director of IT for Change points to the recent case of cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Aadhaar details made public. Gurumurthy cites instances of daily wage labourers who have been unable to get their wages from their accounts due to improper feeding of personal details on the Aadhaar card.
The PAN card is used primarily to file income tax returns as mandated by the income tax department. The fundamental issue with the Aadhaar is that its scope is being widened by the government to areas where it was not intended and hence the increasing number of errors associated with it, says Alok Prasanna Kumar, an advocate based in Bengaluru.
The definition of a citizen under the Aadhaar is different from that under the I-T Act, says Kumar. “If you fail to file your I-T returns, the department can track you and they don’t need an Aadhaar to do that,” he says.
Prashant Mali, advocate and international cyber law and cyber security expert throws more light on the PAN and Aadhaar. “PAN has a database which accepts names in any format, while the Aadhaar does it only in its own stringent format. If we apply for change in PAN then we need to update a) bank details, b) insurance details, c) rent details, d) PPF details and e) demat details. Essentially, everything that is related to PAN."
Mali says that he is against Aadhaar having a biometric data base. "Linking of the PAN with the Aadhaar is an exercise never thought from the software code point of view. In the future, if the government wants to link anything to Aadhaar, it must be done after a source code software system review. The security threat to the Aadhaar data hangs over us like Damocles sword," he said.
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Alongside the facility to link biometric identifier Aadhaar with PAN, the department has also put two separate hyperlinks on its e-filing website
Income tax returns filing, PAN-Aadhaar linking deadlines extended to 5 Aug, 31 Aug on deluge of complaints
The government had made mandatory the linking of the two databases for filing ITRs from 1 July, this year.
The I-T department has developed a mobile app for paying taxes and tracking refunds and is considering issuing PANs on real time basis using Aadhaar biometric.