Two petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging Section 139AA, which was inserted in the Income Tax Act by the Finance Act, 2017, making it mandatory for Aadhaar cards to be linked to PAN for filing of IT Returns. From July 1, Aadhaar is required to obtain a PAN.
The petition has been filed by Binoy Vishwam and is being heard by the Supreme Court bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. Vishwam says forcible linking of Aadhaar is in violation of the right to privacy, a facet of the right to life under Article 21.
On May 2, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said: “From the first day they were asked to not argue on the point of privacy, but whatever they have argued is only privacy and nothing else. They cannot argue for Art. 21 because it is about taxation. In 1975, we introduced PAN card for identification purpose. At that time, the photograph was the identification code. In the last 20 years, we started taking fingerprints on paper. Now we are taking fingerprint electronically. What difference will it make?”
Vishwam said: “You have complete body scanners on airports. Can they say it’s my body? I don’t want to be scanned.”
Rohatgi: “You are saying take photograph of me, but not my iris. What difference will it make?”
The main thrust of the Rohatgi’s argument was that a lot of people get their PAN cards to use it as an identification proof. These people never actually pay taxes, the purpose for which PAN was envisaged. Also, for getting a PAN a person needs to submit secondary identity proof, such as driving licence or ration card, which is not a foolproof way of identifying someone. Thus the current process is leading to a large number of fake PAN cards being issued.
Rohatgi also submitted that tax collection is becoming difficult because of the current verification process. He then brought in the national interest argument and submitted that it was necessary to bring in a better process like Aadhaar where the identification is based on iris which cannot be counterfeited. Also, this data is in digitized form, so it can be stored for eternity and immediate encryption of this data is enough to protect it. This process is being utilized by many developed countries and has been successful.
The other argument by Rohatgi was that the burden on people who do pay their taxes should not become unbearable because of tax dodgers. This process will stop the creation of black money, laundering, tax dodging and terror financing.
The entire process of the scan was then detailed to the court.
He also said that there is almost no possibility of duplicating an Aadhaar card. He admitted that there have been cases where it has been issued to “Hanuman” or cats or dogs and this is being looked into. But there hasn’t been a single case where out of 113 crore cards issued any card has been duplicated.
Hearings will continue.
—India Legal Bureau