India’s Supreme Court has weighed in on the government’s controversial plan to link tax filing to Aadhaar, the country’s national biometric ID program.
The central government had sought to link Aadhaar to the Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards that are currently used to file taxes, arguing that they are highly vulnerable to fraud on their own. But the matter found its way to the country’s highest court, with petitioners arguing against it on privacy grounds.
The Supreme Court’s decision is essentially a compromise. The court ruled that the government can in fact link Aadhaar to PAN, but said that individuals who haven’t yet registered in the Aadhaar program could not be compelled to do so. Or, in more formal terms, it issued a ‘partial stay’ on Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act.
For the vast majority of India’s citizens – The Hindu reports that over 95 percent of the population are registered in Aadhaar – the decision means that they will use Aadhaar credentials to pay their taxes starting this July. Meanwhile, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether Aadhaar more broadly violates constitutional privacy rights with its collection of biometric information – matter of increasing consequence as biometric Aadhaar services continue to expand throughout the country.
June 9, 2017 – by Alex Perala