New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the law mandating Aadhaar number for filing IT return, but said the government could not force people to get one until the main issue over privacy is decided.
A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri read down the law partially and said penal consequences won’t apply against those who are not Aadhaar card holders till the Constitution Bench decides whether right to privacy is a fundamental right or not and if enrolment for the unique identification number violates it.
However, the apex court upheld the validity of Section 139AA of the I-T Act, subject to the outcome of the batch of petitions before its Constitution bench which is examining if the Aadhaar scheme infringes on the Right to Privacy and if there is threat of data leakage.
It also clarified that it has not touched upon the issue of Right to Privacy and other aspects that the Aadhaar scheme affects the human dignity which has to be decided by the Constitution bench. The bench asked the government to take appropriate steps to ensure there was no leakage of data from the Aadhaar scheme.
“The government to take proper and appropriate steps and the scheme in this regard has to be devised at the earliest till confidence among the citizens that the data would not be leaked,” the bench said.
The bench made it clear that there was no conflict between the impugned provisions of the Income Tax Act and the Aadhaar Act.
It also said that PAN card without Aadhaar number would not be treated invalid till the Constitution bench decides the larger issue of Right to Privacy.
It said previous transactions won’t be affected or nullified with partial stay on the new law till privacy issue linked to Aadhaar is decided.
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The Centre had earlier said that the programme of PAN had become suspect as it could be faked, while Aadhaar was a “secure and robust” system by which the identity of an individual could not be faked.