In a setback to the Modi government that was hoping to make Aadhaar mandatory for almost every government-run programme, the Supreme Court on Friday asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to justify the government's move that made Aadhaar compulsory for filing Income Tax returns.
"Is making Aadhaar by force the only way to tackle fraud?" the Supreme Court asked the central government.
Last month, the government made Aadhaar card a mandatory for filing income tax returns and for applying for pan cards. The government said that the move was aimed to streamline the taxing system and curb the misuse of pan cards for evading taxes.
However, it seems, the government will now have to face the Supreme Court and justify its legality in the court of law as the apex court has found it to be a complete violation of the court's previous order.
Responding to the Supreme Court's concern over centralized biometric-based database of India's 1.2 billion citizens, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that the central government's aim was to end the black money menace by making Aadhaar a mandatory.
"We found a number of pan cards being used to divert funds to shell companies, to prevent it the only option is to make Aadhaar card mandatory," said Rohatgi.
Earlier in March, the apex court had said that the Aadhaar card can't be made mandatory by the government for extending the benefits of its welfare schemes to the people. However, the Chief Justice of India said that Aadhaar can be used for non-benefit schemes. He said that the government cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other schemes like the opening of bank accounts.
Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act by the Finance Act, 2017, makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax Returns. By the impugned provision, Aadhaar has been made mandatory for obtaining PAN, continued validity of PAN and for filing of return under the Income Tax Act.
"The answer is this that for giving benefits of welfare schemes, it (Aadhaar) cannot be pressed. They (government and its agencies) cannot be stopped from seeking Aadhaar for non-benefit schemes like opening of bank accounts," a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had said.