SC refuses interim stay on linking Aadhaar

Mobile firms, banks told to mention last date for Aadhaar linkage

AGENCIES NEWDELHI, 3rd Nov: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday refused to pass an interim order staying the linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers and bank accounts, saying that it is leaving the issue to be decided on by a Constitution bench in the last week of November.

At the same time though, the top court chastised banks and mobile telephone companies for creating panic by sending customers messages saying their accounts will be deactivated if they don't link them to Aadhaar.

The Centre denied that such messages were being sent.

“I don't want to say in the presence of media people, but I also get (these) messages,” said Justice AK Sikri, referring to the sometimes umpteen-a-day text messages threatening deactivation for not linking one's Aadhaar to one's bank account and mobile phone number.

The top court asked these institutions to avoid scaring people in this manner, while it was hearing a plea from social activists to restrain the Centre from linking Aadhaar to bank accounts and mobile phone numbers until a Constitution bench decides its validity.

Such a bench is expected to soon hear a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar on the ground that it violated citizens' right to privacy.

This statement from the SC came a day after the Centre told the apex court that all subscribers had to link their mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar by February 6 under E-KYC verification. The Centre also said on Thursday that showing proof of Aadhaar is mandatory for opening new bank accounts.
The Centre further said on Thursday that it was the SC that had approved the norm for mandatory Aadhaar-mobile phone linkage - with a window of one year - in the Lokniti Foundation case on February 6.

Earlier this week, while hearing a separate petition challenging the mandatory linking of mobile phones with Aadhaar, a two-judge bench of the SC had sought the government's response on the question in four weeks.

The Supreme Court further directed banks and mobile phone service providers to tell their customers the last date for linking of accounts and mobile numbers with Aadhaar.

A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan said the court had been told that banks and service providers were bombarding mobile users and account holders with messages without mentioning the deadline for the linkage.

The court said that banks and service providers will mention the last date for linking of accounts and mobile numbers with Aadhaar in their messages as it issued notice to the Centre on two petitions, by Kalyani Menon Sen and Mathews Thomas challenging the validity of Aadhaar law.

“I am also receiving messages. Let that date be given,” Justice Sikri observed as Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that there was need for passing an order as the government has itself extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile numbers.

Issuing notice to the Centre, the court tagged the two petitions with the main petition by the former Karnataka High Court Judge KS Puttaswamy, others by first Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, CPI leader Binoy Viswam and others challenging the validity of Aadhaar on the grounds of being violative of right to privacy and on other counts.

Refusing to pass any order as the hearing by the constitution bench in these matters would commence in the third week of November, the court however granted liberty to press for stay if hearing does not take place as ordered or continues beyond December 31.

“Government is working on putting in place a law on data protection,” the Attorney General told the bench, adding that the Committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna that has been asked to frame a draft bill for data protection is likely to submit its report by March end.

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