March 31 deadline for Aadhaar linkage may be extended: Govt to SC

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New Delhi, March 6 (PTI) The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to various services and social assistance plans administered by the government can be extended beyond March 31, the Center said in the Supreme Court today.

The Center said that since it would take more time to complete the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case, the government could extend the deadline from March 31.

A constitutional court composed of five judges consisting of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Dipak Misra, and judges A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D And Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, concurred with the argument of Attorney General K K. Venugopal.

“We have extended the deadline in the past and will extend the term again, but we can do it before the end of the month to allow the petitioners in the case to conclude the arguments,” Venugopal said.

The court said that “it is a very valid point raised by the Attorney General and the court would not allow repetitive arguments made by the petitioners’ attorneys on the matter.”

On December 15 of last year, the Supreme Court had extended until March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and social assistance plans.

Former senior defender Shyam Divan, who addressed the arguments in defiance of Aadhaar and his Enabling Law, said the March 31 deadline would be extended as it was very unlikely that the hearing would conclude in the case that challenges the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Law.

“The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and social assistance schemes is March 31. This will have all the ramifications of India since several institutions would have to adjust accordingly,” said Divan.

Judge Chandrachud said that even if the court reserves its verdict on March 20, banks and other institutions will only have 10 days, which could be difficult.

Then, the court called the Attorney General to help him with the matter.

At the end of today’s hearing, Venugopal appeared before the court and made the statement about the possibility of extending the deadline.

Chief lawyer Arvind Datar, who argued against the Aadhaar plan, said it violated the fundamental rights of citizens.

The audience will continue tomorrow.

Earlier, on February 22, Judge KS Puttaswamy, a former judge of the Karnataka High Court, had told the High Court that several deaths had occurred due to starvation because of failures in the public distribution system based in Aadhaar and the court should consider granting them compensation.

He urged the court to consider the possibility of granting compensation to those who had suffered for the reason of the exclusion due to Aadhaar, in particular the relatives of the victims of death by starvation.

Previously, the higher court had observed that the alleged defect of biometric data of citizens under the Aadhaar plan that was collected without any law could be corrected by subsequently presenting a statute.

He said the Center enacted the law in 2016 to deny the objection that it was collecting data since 2009 without any authorization, but that the issue that needed consideration was what would happen if the data collected previously had been compromised.