NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a partial stay on Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act that makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns. A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan also ruled that PAN cards of those who don’t have Aadhaar would not be invalidated till the court decides on the issue of Right to Privacy.
However, significantly, the apex court upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 139AA with respect to Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 19 (Right to Freedom). But, it refused to go into the question of Article 21 and Right to Privacy as the same is already pending before a Constitution Bench of the court.
This means that those who have an Aadhaar number would have to link the same with PAN while filing their tax returns.
But those who are yet to apply or yet to be a llotted an Aadhaar number would be exempted from this and their PAN would not be invalidated. Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act makes it mandatory for individuals to quote their Aadhaar number while applying for PAN cards and filing income tax returns after July 1.
“A person who is holder of PAN and if his PAN is invalidated, he is bound to suffer immensely in his day-to-day dealings, which situation should be avoided till the Constitution Bench authoritatively determines the argument of Article 21 of the Constitution,” the ruling noted.
A Constitution bench is currently examining if Aadhaar infringes on an individual’s right to privacy.
Meanwhile, the Centre told the Constitution bench on Friday that Aadhaar had a wider impact on all welfare schemes and cited a World Bank report which stated that the unique number would save $11 billion annually if applied to social programmes and that over 115.15 crore Indians had voluntarily enrolled.
The government also clarified that as per Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, people who do not have Aadhaar numbers are not being denied benefits, rather alternate and viable means of identity proof are accepted, like voter ID, ration card, passport, driving licence, etc.
Seeking dismissal of the petition challenging implementation of Aadhaar over privacy concerns, the government said only elites have concerns about privacy when the issue really was about people’s rights to have food, subsidies and various other benefits under welfare schemes.
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