Aadhaar mandatory to avoid fake PAN cards: Govt tells SC

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Arguing for the Modi government, Mukul Rohatgi said that Section 139 AA of the IT Act, which makes Aadhaar mandatory for PAN, curbs use of fake PAN cards.

The SC had earlier asked the government why Aadhaar was being made compulsory for filing Income Tax returns, referring to its order in 2015.

The apex court was hearing multiple petitions challenging the Centre's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns.

He said that as of today, technologically Aadhaar was "protected system" with all sophisticated safeguards and there was not a single leak from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Interim orders passed by the Supreme Court can not act as legislative estoppel because the orders were passed when Aadhaar was an executive scheme.

You might want to be forgotten, the state does not want to forget you, Mukul Rohatgi said, adding that the government is not looking to play big brother.

An individual has a social contract with the state under which no constituent can say "I don't want to be identified", the attorney general argued. "Can petitioners say that they don't have a PAN card, no driver's licence or credit card and that they live in the Himalayas... the government is entitled to put technologies for better use", the AG contended.

Rohatgi had also clarified that nowhere in section 139AA of IT Act, was it mentioned that it would be effective with retrospective effect.

Divan countered the Centre's arguments and said Aadhaar- like system has not been implemented in "any other country which calls itself democratic".

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The Centre pushed for mandatory Aadhaar cards, saying that it was a more robust and foolproof method than PAN cards, which can be faked. It would turn India into a surveillance state in which a person can be tracked and remain under electronic watch throughout his life. "People can not commit suicide and take drugs", the AG told the court.

The senior advocate also sought to puncture Rohatgi's argument to the judges on Tuesday that leakage of Aadhaar data was a remote possibility and such leaks that have happened were not of the biometrics but just the bare numbers.

"There are cases where such informations have been commercially sold".

The government defended its stand on the Aadhar card and said duplication of iris and fingerprint scan is impossible and a fool-proof process.

However, the Supreme Court Bench, comprising of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, told the Attorney-General that the examples cited by him can not be applied here as the case pertains to taxation law and not offences.

"The concept of civil liberties will go then", he said.

The Government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that citizens of India can not claim absolute right over their body parts and refuse to provide digital samples of their fingerprints and iris for Aadhaar card enrollment.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.