The SC's directive came after Attorney General KK Venugopal refused to give a written assurance that no coercive steps would be taken to force people to link their Aadhaar.

 Are you forcing citizens to link Aadhaar SC asks govt to clarifyPTI/ file image
news Aadhaar Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 18:14

Amid continuing uncertainty over whether or not Aadhaar cards have to mandatorily be linked to bank accounts and mobile numbers, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to clarify its stance on the issue by Monday.

The direction came after Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that the government would not take any coercive steps to force citizens to link their Aadhaar, but refused to give a written assurance to this effect.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud then directed Venugopal to consult the Centre on the matter and give a reply by October 30.

The three-judge bench of the SC was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the government's attempts to make it mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and mobile numbers. During the course of the hearing, the Attorney-General told the court that the government was open to extending the deadline for linking by three months, that is from December 31 to March 31. However, he clarified that the extended deadline will only be made applicable to those people who are yet to get their Aadhaar cards.  

However, senior advocates Shyam Divan, Meenakshi Arora, Arvind Datar and Anand Grover, appearing for the petitioners, objected to the distinction between people who have Aadhaar and those who do not. They argued that the deadline should be extended for all people, or the Centre should refrain from taking any coercive steps against those who fail to link their Aadhaar till March 31, reports Live Law.

They also pointed out that, despite several court orders saying that Aadhaar cannot made mandatory, the government was continuing to force people to link their Aadhaars for various purposes. Shyam Divan observed that the Central Board for Secondary Education was making it mandatory for students to provide their Aadhaar to receive their hall tickets for the Class 12 exams.

The opposition to mandatory Aadhaar linking comes even as a five-judge Constitutional Bench is set to hear challenges to Aadhaar in November. The stage for this larger battle was set in August, when a nine-judge bench of the court had ruled that privacy is a fundamental right. This has paved the way for challenges to Aadhaar being made mandatory for all citizens on the grounds that it violates privacy.

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