New Delhi: 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.

“It will be invalid from 1 July 2017 and not from when you had applied for a PAN number," the government’s top law officer attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said.

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.

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A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was 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. 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.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the law is arbitrary and has no nexus with its objective of curbing black money.

“Aadhaar linkage is only for an individual assessee and not for companies, firms etc. The consequences of non-compliance are draconian," he said.

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Datar also argued that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for any scheme or service by the government.

“Aadhaar is a right that a citizen is entitled to. There is no duty cast upon him to obtain one," he added.

The government has made Aadhaar mandatory for over 30 schemes after the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act was passed in 2016. The apex court is yet to constitute a larger Constitution bench to decide if Aadhaar violates a citizen’s fundamental right to privacy.

The court will continue to hear the case on Thursday.

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