New Delhi: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court is set to rule today on the constitutionality of Aadhaar, the unique identity number that has become indispensable for accessing a host of government and private services ranging from subsidies and scholarships to mobile phones and marriage certificates.

The historic judgement, which comes more than five months after the judges concluded a 38-day hearing, will dwell on the legality and compulsory use of Aadhaar, issued to more than 1.22 billion people. The unique ID has been made mandatory for rations, cooking gas, and payments for the national job guarantee scheme. It is also instrumental for banking services, telephone connections, filing tax returns and making digital payments, among others.

In April, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) updated its know-your-customer (KYC) guidelines mandating Aadhaar for customer verification and due diligence by entities regulated by it, including banks, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), payment system providers (PSPs) and prepaid payments instrument (PPI) issuers.

However, the guidelines have not been enforced pending the final verdict on Aadhaar.

On 10 May, a constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan concluded hearing various challenges to the constitutional basis of the 12-digit unique identification project and reserved its judgment.

In March, the apex court had extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar with mobile services, opening new bank accounts and other services until it passed its verdict on a challenge to the constitutional validity of such linkages. The court also noted that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory for a Tatkal passport, for the time being.

“The extension would be applicable to the schemes of ministries/departments of the Union government as well as those of state governments," the court ruled in an interim order passed in March.

It was, however, clarified that the extension would not be applicable for availing of services, subsidies and benefits under Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

The constitution bench of the apex court was constituted on 13 December after petitioners pressed for an early hearing on the issue of mandatory Aadhaar linking. The apex court started hearing the final arguments on the legality of Aadhaar on 17 January.

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