Supreme Court seeks Centre's response in Aadhaar case, pulls up telecom firms, banks for not clarifying deadline

The Supreme Court took up the Aadhaar case on Friday and pulled up private companies for their messages asking customers to mandatorily link Aadhaar number to bank accounts and mobile phone numbers. The apex court also sought the Centre's response on the four petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act.

It was brought to the notice of the court by the petitioners that telecom companies and Banks were sending messages threatening to freeze SIMs and bank accounts. In response to this, a bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, however, said that the banks and telecom service providers should indicate the last date of linking bank accounts and mobile numbers with Aadhaar is 31 December and 6 February respectively, in the messages sent by them to their customers.

Justice Sikri said that even he was receiving such messages which warned that non-compliance could lead to disconnection of connection, according to CNN-News18.

"We make it clear that in the messages sent by banks and telecom service providers, the date of 31 December, 2017 and 6 February, 2018, shall also be indicated as the last date of linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile numbers," the bench said.

The court also declined to grant a stay as the Aadhaar case would be heard at the end of November. However if the case was not heard as scheduled, then a stay would be considered.

Representative image. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

On 30 October, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said that a Constitution bench would be constituted and Aadhaar-related matters would come up for hearing before it in the last week of November.

Several petitions challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for availing various services and benefits of government welfare schemes have been filed in the apex court.

The Centre had on 25 October told the Supreme Court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to receive the benefits of government schemes has been extended till 31 March, 2018 for those who do not have the 12-digit unique biometric identification number and were willing to enroll for it.

Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as "illegal and unconstitutional". They also objected to the CBSE's alleged move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for students appearing for examinations, a contention denied by the Centre.

Recently, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had claimed it violated privacy rights.

The centre in an affidavit had earlier told the Supreme Court that all subscribers must link their Aadhaar card number with their mobile phone numbers by 6 February, under the e-KYC verification. According to The Times of India, this order had come in the wake of the Lok Niti Foundation case, where the court is said to have made the linking mandatory. The apex court had also said that linking should be completed by 6 February. Failing to do so may lead to deactivation of the SIM card. This effort is to ensure that terrorists and fraudsters cannot be issued SIM cards.

The Centre had further added that the 12-digit number and the mobile number must be linked within the stipulated time frame since a decision like extending the deadline cannot be extended unilaterally.

However,  one of the counsel representing the petitioners had earlier said the final hearing in the main Aadhaar matter, which is pending before the apex court, was  ecessary as the government "cannot compel" citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or cell phone numbers.

This report takes inputs from Gautam Bhatia's twitter feed where he reported the proceedings

Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 14:49 PM

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