New Delhi, May 2, 2017

Rohatgi told the top court that of the 113.7 crore Aadhaar cards issued till date, the government has not found a single case of duplicity.

The government defended its ‘secure and robust’ unique identification system in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and said the decision to make Aadhaar mandatory to apply for Permanent Account Numbers (PAN) cards is in light of the numerous fake ones being used across the country.

The apex court was hearing multiple petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns. “Aadhaar makes a secure and robust system through which identity of a person cannot be faked,” Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi told the bench.

“The Central Govt is entitled to have identification. As constituents of society people can’t claim immunity from identification,” Rohatgi is quoted as saying by ANI. He added, “No right is absolute, right to body is not absolute. Under extreme cases even right to life can be taken away, under due process.”

Rohatgi also argued that PAN cards are being used for terror financing and circulation of black money. “Today, you have blackmoney which is being used in drug financing and terror financing. So it was decided to bring in a more robust system by which identity of a person cannot be faked,” he told a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, reported PTI. “It (Aadhaar) is an effective tool to check terror financing and blackmoney. It ensures that money meant for poor people reaches them.”

Rohatgi told the top court that of the 113.7 crore Aadhaar cards issued till date, the government has not found a single case of duplicity. He compared it to the 10 lakh fake PAN cards that have been cancelled by the government. The Attorney General also said that the government has saved more than Rs 50,000 crore while disbursing subsidies due to the introduction of Aadhaar.

Regarding the collection of biometric data, Rohatgi argued, “Biometric is classified as sensitive public information. You might want to be forgotten, but the state does not want to forget you. Biometric will not to be shared, unless per procedures laid down under the law. Authorities shall ensure security, confidentiality of data.

Three petitioners, represented by senior counsel Shyam Divan, had argued that Section 139AA is unconstitutional and in ‘direct collusion’ with the Aadhaar Act. The apex court was hearing three petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 139 AA of the Income Tax Act which was introduced through the latest budget and the Finance Act 2017. Section 139AA provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form for filing of income tax returns and making an application for allotment of PAN number with effect from July 1 this year.

The hearing is likely to continue on Wednesday.

[The Indian Express]