India: Top court questions govt over making Aadhaar mandatory for procuring PAN cards
The Supreme Court will hear the plea challenging the constitutional validity of the government's move on April 25. Photograph: (Reuters)
India's top court, the Supreme Court of India, Friday questioned the federal government for its decision to make it necessary to get an Aadhaar card to get a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card.
PAN cards are necessary for filing taxes, a legal requirement.
The top court said it will decide on whether Aadhaar card can be made mandatory, for filing of Income Tax (I-T) returns, next week.
"How can you make Aadhaar card mandatory when we have passed an order to make it optional?," the top court asked the government.
The government had last month proposed making Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income-tax returns as well as for obtaining and retaining the permanent account number (PAN) in its official amendment of the finance bill.
The Attorney General of India defended the government, stating that making Aadhaar mandatory was the "only option" since fake PAN cards were being used to divert funds to shell companies.
In a separate ruling last month, the Supreme Court had also said the government cannot require citizens to have an Aadhaar card to benefit from government welfare schemes.
The ruling came after the government announced that the 12-digit card will be required for almost 36 central schemes, including: free mid-day meals for school children, scholarships, various other schemes for backward castes and the differently-abled.
The court had also said that a seven-judge bench needed to be constituted for authoritatively deciding a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme on grounds including that it infringes on the Right to Privacy of citizens.