SC extends Aadhaar linking deadline till its verdict

New Delhi, March 13: The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the deadline for linking of various services with Aadhaar till it delivers its judgment on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the biometrical identification scheme.

Announcing the order, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however said that this extension will not affect the linking of Aadhaar with the disbursal of benefits under social welfare schemes.

"We direct that the interim order passed on December 15, 2017 shall stand extended till the matter is finally heard and the judgment is pronounced," the court said in its order.

The court also directed that its interim order "shall also control and govern the Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018" which insisted on Aadhaar identification for getting passports under the 'Tatkal' scheme.

The order came as senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court that passport issuing authorities have made submission of Aadhaar mandatory for issuance of passports.

At this point, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal sought to clarify that this requirement of Aadhaar was only for issuance of 'tatkal' passports.

The current deadline for linking of bank accounts, mobile phone connections, and other services with Aadhaar was March 31 and this had been extended by the apex court on December 15 last year.

As Chief Justice Misra said that their interim order stands extended, the Attorney General told the court that the government was prepared to extend the deadline in the last week of March as arguments in the matter would have concluded by then.

"We were prepared for extension in last week of March," he told the court in a bid to stall the extension.

The constitution bench, which also includes Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, had on March 7 ruled that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will not insist on Aadhaar-only identification for NEET and other all-India examinations.

Earlier in the course of the arguments, senior counsel P. Chidambaram told the court that it could look into the decision of the Lok Sabha Speaker in allowing Aadhaar Bill to be tabled as a Money Bill.

Noting that under the Constitution's Article 122, the decision of the Speaker that a Bill is a Money Bill was "final" and mere procedural irregularities would not stand in the way of the decision, he argued that the Speaker's decision was final only in respect of Lok Sabha and does not interdict the court from looking at it if the decision is coupled with illegality and unconstitutionality.

Appearing for Congress's Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh who has challenged the introduction of Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill, Chidambaram, who continued his arguments from the last hearing on March 7, said that to declare a bill as a Money Bill even though it is not was a procedure that violated the Constitution's basis structure, thus the power of judicial review is not taken away.

He told the court that declaring as Bill as a Money Bill strikes at the root of federalism as it eclipses the powers of the Rajya Sabha which represents the collective wisdom of the states.

Telling the court that when a Bill goes beyond the provisions of Article 110, it besmears a Finance Bill and Money Bill is a "very narrow small text of the Finance Bill", Chidambaram said that by declaring Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill not only denuded Rajya Sabha of its power to scrutinise the Aadhaar Bill, but took away the power of the President to return a Bill for reconsideration.

The court was told that only those bills meeting the requirements specified under sub-clause (a) to (f) of clause (1) of Article 110, or any matter which is incidental to these sub-clauses, can be introduced as Money Bill.


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