The Supreme Court today directed telecom companies and banks to specify the deadlines for Aadhaar-linking in their messages to customers. The direction comes in the backdrop of rampant notification messages from telecom companies and banks threatening customers of freezing their SIMs and bank accounts if not linked to Aadhaar numbers.
A bench, comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, said that any such message must clearly specify that the present deadline for banks is December 31 and for phones is February 6.
However, the bench said since the main Aadhaar case was due to be heard by November-end, a stay or an interim order was not necessary at present. At the same time, it suggested that the prayer for stay could be made when the case would be taken up by the constitution bench at the end of November.
"There is no doubt that these arguments need consideration. The matter is going to come up in the last week of November and the time (to link Aadhaar with bank accounts) has been extended till December 31," the bench said.
During the hearing, the Attorney-General said the claims of the telecom companies and banks sending threatening messages were only oral assertions by petitioners. To this, Justice Sikri replied: "We all know what's happening. We are getting these messages too."
The apex court also sought the government's response on four petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and linking of bank accounts and mobile numbers with the 12-digit biometric identification number.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, referred to a recently filed affidavit by the Centre and said the government has said the deadline for linking Aadhaar may be extended till March 31, 2018.
On October 30, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said that a constitution bench would be constituted and Aadhaar-related matters would come up for hearing before it in November last.
Several petitions challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for availing various services and benefits of welfare schemes have been filed in the apex court.
Recently, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had claimed it violated privacy rights.
The Centre had on October 25 told the top court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to receive benefits of government schemes has been extended till March 31, 2018 for those who do not have the 12-digit unique biometric identification number and were willing to enroll for it.
Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as "illegal and unconstitutional".
They have also objected to the CBSE's alleged move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for students appearing for examinations, a contention denied by the Centre.
One of the counsel representing the petitioners had earlier said the final hearing in the main Aadhaar matter, which is pending before the apex court, was necessary as the government "cannot compel" citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or cell phone numbers.
(With inputs from PTI)