The Supreme Court will pronounce on Friday its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with the Permanent Account Number (PAN) under Section 139AA inserted in the Income Tax Act by the Finance Act, 2017.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan will deliver the judgment at 2 p.m. on the petitions filed by Ramon Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson, former Kerala minister Binoy Viswam and ex-Army officer S.G. Vombatkere against the provision, which makes the possession of Aadhaar card necessary for the continuing validity of an existing PAN and filing of income tax returns.
The government had justified the linkage, saying it is a measure to combat fake PANs and ration cards that have flooded the market and jinxed financial transactions. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had argued that it was already a mandatory requirement under Section 139A of the Income Tax Act to allot PAN. Aadhaar was only being linked to it.
Mr. Rohatgi had argued that taking fingerprints and iris impressions for Aadhaar was not an invasion of a citizen's body as the right of a person to his own body was not absolute.
He had defended the legality of Section 139AA, saying if one has to live in a collective called the 'State', one has to submit to its laws.
The government had argued that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with PAN cannot be considered discriminatory merely because there are 'conscientious objectors' who refuse to take the Aadhaar in the name of freedom of choice, privacy and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The petitioners argued that the Constitution was not a charter of servitude and “we are independent citizens who cannot be forced by the State to part with our fingerprints in exchange for being able to file our Income Tax returns”.
Senior advocates Shyam Divan, Arvind Datar and advocates Sriram Parakkat and Vishnu Shankar argued for the petitioners, contending that the linking of Aadhaar with PAN was a "Faustian bargain". The linkage of Aadhaar with essential activities of life, like opening a bank account, filing the IT returns, buying property or a vehicle, would turn the "entire nation into one large concentration camp where citizens are under State surveillance 24X7".
The question whether Aadhaar scheme is a violation of privacy is yet to be heard by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.