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Govt defends decision to link PAN with Aadhaar in Supreme Court

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-05-2017 Apurva Vishwanath

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday defended before the Supreme Court its decision to link permanent account number (PAN) with Aadhaar. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi argued on behalf of the government.

A Supreme Court bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan are hearing three pleas challenging the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as for obtaining and retaining PAN. Binoy Vishwam, senior Communist Party of India leader; Bezwada Wilson, a Dalit rights activist; and S.G. Vombatkere, a retired Army officer, had moved the court.

Here are a few key arguments of the government.

* There are other legislations which require biometrics. Like the Indian Registration Act, which requires fingerprints. The real difference between that and Aadhaar is now the fingerprints are on an electronic trail.

* Identification is necessary for an orderly society. We must keep pace with technology.

* The argument of the petitioner seems to be that they want to live in a vacuum.

* An individual has a social contract with the state, no constituent under this social contract can say, “I don’t want to be identified.”

* Census collects data. Certificates are issued by the state for birth, death and even marriage.

* The petitioners cannot live in a utopia where they imagine that there is no state.

Can the petitioners say that they don’t have a PAN card, no drivers’ licence, credit card and that they live in the Himalayas?

* Biometric identification systems are essentials in the state in which we live today.

* Cites examples of mobile phones and credit cards for data sharing.

Justice Bhushan interjects to point out that this is done with consent.

The government continues with the arguments.

* The argument of privacy and bodily integrity is bogus.

* The argument of so called privacy is bogus. A legislation can be challenged on only two grounds: a) violation of Constitution b) legislative competence.

* The petitioners have introduced a third ground—violation of the apex court’s interim orders. That can’t be done.

* Is bodily integrity absolute? Under the Motor Vehicles Act, one is asked to wear a seat belt for safety. Is that violation of bodily integrity?

* The state can compel you to do something under the law.

The Attorney General will continue the arguments after lunch.

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