A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan are hearing three pleas challenging the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns as well as for obtaining and retaining PAN. Photo: Hindustan Times
A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan are hearing three pleas challenging the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns as well as for obtaining and retaining PAN. Photo: Hindustan Times

Divan cites personal autonomy to make case against linking Aadhaar to PAN

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, arguing for one of the petitioners, read out a list all the Aadhaar Act breaches and data leaks

New Delhi: On Thursday, senior advocate Shyam Divan, arguing for one of the petitioners, read out a list all the Aadhaar Act breaches and data leaks, and cited principles of “personal autonomy" to make a case against a government rule making the Aadhaar number mandatory for filing tax returns.

A Supreme Court bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan are hearing three pleas challenging the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as for obtaining and retaining PAN (permanent account number). Binoy Vishwam, senior Communist Party of India leader; Bezwada Wilson, a Dalit rights activist; and S.G. Vombatkere, a retired Army officer had moved the court.

On Wednesday, the government’s top law officer, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, presented the government’s side of the argument.

Divan argued that making Aadhaar mandatory violates an individual’s personal autonomy. “The Aadhaar Act itself envisages free consent. The state cannot ask for my physical body unless a) with the citizen’s consent b) in limited circumstances where the state has a vested interest," he added.

He also argued that since the amendment to the Income Tax Act has to be struck down because it says people should quote their Aadhar number, obtained under the Aadhaar Act, which itself says this process is voluntary. “Can the government for the purposes of tax efficiency violate personal autonomy?," he asked

According to the provisions of Finance Act 2017, the Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrolment number will be mandatory to file income-tax returns and to apply for a new PAN. Further, an existing PAN can be declared void if the taxpayer does not link it with Aadhaar within the period that will be notified by the government.

The government on Wednesday clarified to the Supreme Court that permanent account number (PAN) will not be invalidated retrospectively for not linking it with Aadhaar.

The hearing will resume on 2 May.

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