The Delhi High Court extended the deadline for linking Aadhar with tax returns till June 30 for the petitioners before it, while considering the petitions filed by two lawyers. Two lawyers- Senior Advocate Mukul Talwar and Advocate Vrinda Grover- approached the Court raising the grievance that the Income Tax Department was not permitting e-filing of tax returns without quoting Aadhar number. They stated in the petition that the IT Department has not yet implemented the extension given by the Supreme Court for mandatory linking of Aadhar number and PAN number. They could not complete the process of e-filing of returns for the Assessment Year 2017-18, as the online portal does not accept the returns without furnishing Aadhar number or the enrolment number. Since it was not possible to do e-filing without quoting Aadhar number or its enrolment number, they submitted returns in physical form.
As per Section 139AA introduced in the Income Tax Act last year, it is mandatory to link Aadhar number with PAN card. The legality of the provision was considered by a two judges’ bench of the Supreme Court in Binoy Viswom v. Union of India. The Supreme Court upheld the provision as not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. However, the judgment did not examine the contentions regarding violation of privacy rights by Aadhar, as the issue whether Article 21 provides for right to privacy was being examined by a constitutional bench then. Therefore, the Court held in Binoy Viswom that those who had not yet enrolled in the Aadhar scheme were free to file returns without quoting Aadhar number, until the pronouncement of the constitutional bench. Later, the constitutional bench declared that right to life under Article 21 includes Right to Privacy as per judgment in Justice K.Puttuswamy v. Union of India.
After the constitutional bench declaration, another bench was constituted to examine the validity of the Aadhar Act. On December 15 2017, the Court extended the deadline for Aadhar linking until March 31. Later, on March 13 it was further extended by the Court till final the final disposal of the matter. On the basis of this order, the CBDT issued oan rder extending the deadline of Aadhar-Pan linking till June 30.
The petitioners, who have not obtained Aadhar number, stated that the Supreme Court orders entitle them to refrain from quoting Aadhar number in tax returns. But the online process does not give an option for not quoting Aadhar number, depriving them of the benefit of Supreme Court orders. This, according to them, is an indirect coercion to obtain Aadhar, and is “arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India”. They contended that they cannot be compelled to obtain Aadhar before the pronouncement of its validity by the Supreme Court. They also prayed that the physical returns submitted by them be treated as valid returns, as the online process was impossible.
The petition, filed through Advocate Prasanna.S, was considered by a bench comprising Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice A.K Chawla. Senior Advocate Kriti Uppal appeared in the matter. The Court extended the time for filing the returns for the petitioners up to June 30, and has sought for the responses of the centre and department in the matter. The matter will be further considered on May 14.