Never directed Aadhaar-mobile number linkage, says Supreme Court

Dhananjay Mahapatra | The Times of India|

NEW DELHI, April 26:  The mad rush to link mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar supposedly to comply with a directive of the Supreme Court was uncalled for. The apex court on Wednesday clarified that it had not ordered mandatory linkage, and said the government misinterpreted its February 6, 2017, observation and insisted on doing it.

Supreme Court of India. Image: TOI

“In the Lokniti Foundation case, the SC has not directed linking of SIM with UID. But the Union government’s circular says so. There was no direction by the court…” Justice D Y Chandrachud said during the hearing before a bench that included Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan.

The CJI-led bench pointed out that the February 6, 2017, order merely recorded then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s submission that Aadhaar was one of the documents used for verification of subscriber identity.

Significantly, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who appeared for UIDAI, agreed with the bench and said the government appeared to have taken the SC’s observations for verification of mobile phone subscribers seriously.

Drawing Dwivedi’s attention to the February 6 order, the bench said the court merely recorded the AG’s submission that “an effective programme for the same would be devised at the earliest and the process of identity verification will be completed within one year”.

The bench set the record straight when Dwivedi argued that one-time seeding of mobile number with Aadhaar was not a big ask and would not lead to intrusion into citizens’ privacy as no call records were maintained through Aadhaar.

UIDAI’s insistence that the Supreme Court had mandated that all mobile connections be linked with Aadhaar had led to a scramble of sorts, with mobile service providers, nudged by the government, inundating subscribers with dire messages on the need to abide by the alleged order.

The SC on March 13 had indefinitely extended the deadline for linkage of Aadhaar with mobile numbers and bank accounts of individuals and asked the government to wait till the constitution bench decided the validity of Aadhaar to take further steps in this regard.

The Centre had in the interim agreed to extend the deadline for bank account linkage with Aadhaar till March 31.

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