Aadhaar linking deadline of March 31 extended

The Supreme Court extended the March 31 deadline to link Aadhaar with various government services, bank accounts, Permanent Account Numbers for filing tax returns and even mobile phone connections indefinitely until after it delivers a final verdict on petitions questioning the validity of the unique identification number.

Extension of the deadline offers relief to consumers bombarded by messages from service providers including banks and mobile phone companies asking them to link their accounts to Aadhaar before the deadline.

A five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the extension will not apply to government services and benefits like pensions and scholarships, subsidised foodgrains under the Public Distribution System, subsidised cooking gas and the flagship job guarantee plan for rural households.

Such benefits are covered by Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, which deals with the delivery of financial benefits and subsidies and services under government welfare programmes.

Those drawing such benefits will be required to provide the biometric ID details and number assigned to them by the Unique Identification Authority of India.

The court restrained the authorities from insisting on Aadhaar for issuance of tatkal passports, which are processed faster.

In December last year, the top court extended until March 31, the December 31, 2017 deadline for mandatorily linking various services with their Aadhaar number, which has become the bedrock of government welfare programmes, the tax administration network and online financial transactions.

The bench is currently hearing petitioners who have questioned the validity of Aadhaar and subsequent rules making the number mandatory for such services. The government will respond after the petitioners present their case.

A final judgment is unlikely before the end of this month.

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