'Why didn't MPs object when Govt linked Aadhaar to PAN?'
The Supreme Court on Wednesday put a poser as to why there was no objection from lawmakers on the government's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for making PAN cards, a move which was given effect by the latest budget from July 1.
"542 persons are sitting in Parliament, why do they not object to it? If they are not objecting on it, why should we go into it," a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said. When it was told that the Centre has earlier made a statement in the apex court that they would not make Aadhaar mandatory, the bench said, "they cannot be bound by it. It cannot preclude Parliament from enacting a statutory provision." The apex court was hearing three petitions challenging the constitutional validity of section 139AA of the Income Tax (IT) Act.
Section 139AA, introduced through the latest budget and the Finance Act 2017, provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form for filing of income tax returns and making application for allotment of PAN number with effect from July 1 this year. During the hearing, the bench also observed that tax evasion existed in India and it was a "shame" that citizens do not want to pay taxes.
The top court said there was no doubt that Aadhaar should be voluntary and observed that since tax evasion existed, the government could bring in new statute to stop such "leakage".
"We know that tax evasion is there. When tax evasion is there, the government is trying to block these leakages by bringing new statute. We citizens are like that. It is a shame that we do not want to pay tax," the bench said.
Defending the Centre's stand to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing of Income tax returns and to apply for PAN, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi referred to around 10 lakh fake permanent account number (PAN) cards in the country and said Aadhaar was the only system which could prevent duplication or fake cards. "We have reached to 99 per cent of India's population. We are not at a nascent stage," he told the bench and questioned the maintainability of these writ petitions saying they have not raised the issue of violation of privacy.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for a petitioner, told the bench that section 139AA was not part of the original Finance Bill and was introduced at the last moment.
He referred to the Aadhaar Act and said there was not a single word saying that the intention behind the statute was to check the black money and weed out fake PAN cards.
To this, the bench said, "the purpose of the Aadhaar Act is different from that of section 139AA of the IT Act. Therefore, validity of section 139AA cannot be seen at the touchstone of what is there in the Aadhaar Act." "It (Aadhaar) is voluntary, there is no doubt about it," the apex court said, adding, "Today, we are dealing with a statutory provision which is enacted by Parliament". The bench, which would continue hearing the arguments on Thursday, also said the purpose of Aadhaar was to extend the benefits of government welfare schemes to the poorer sections so that the money was not misused.
SC pulls up five states for not appointing food commissions
The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the governments of drought-hit states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka for not appointing state food commissions or making them operational. A bench of Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana, which had summoned the Chief Secretaries of ten states on the issue, directed that the state food commissions must be appointed as per the provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The apex court pulled up Madhya Pradesh government for not appointing the members of the commission so far and said the "state is following a new procedure for selecting members by way of advertisements".