New Delhi: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will start hearing the issue of interim stay against mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, on Thursday.

The bench comprising five judges—Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan has been constituted.

The matter was mentioned before a bench headed by CJI Misra who said that the Constitution bench would be set up by Thursday to address the question of interim stay against mandatory linking of Aadhaar.

This came after repeated attempts by the petitioners for an early hearing on the issue.

Shyam Divan, senior advocate and one of the petitioners, had previously asked the court to set up a Constitution bench for an interim stay in line with the court’s order of 30 October under which the Constitution bench was supposed to begin hearing the various challenges against Aadhaar in the last week of November.

On 30 October, the apex court referred all Aadhaar cases to a five-judge Constitution bench to be formed by the end of November.

Till such time as the Constitution bench passes any orders, the government can continue to use Aadhaar for its various programmes.

On 7 December, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), clarified that notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for availing various welfare programmes as well as linking it with bank accounts, PAN and mobile phone SIM cards would remain valid. This means that the consumers will have to adhere to the various deadlines for Aadhaar linking until further orders of the court.

While the deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and PAN has been extended to 31 March, it is still 6 February for mobile phone SIM cards.

Attorney general K.K. Venugopal had informed the court that the government was willing to, with the exception of SIM cards, extend the deadline to 31 March for mandatory linking of Aadhaar.

The court had earlier tagged 22 cases to be heard by a smaller bench. The cases challenge several aspects of Aadhaar, including the use of data collected under the unique identification programme.

Two new pleas challenging Aadhaar—one by the West Bengal government on the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to various schemes and another challenging its mandatory linking with mobile numbers—have also been brought to court.

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