Legal tangle over mandatory linking of Aadhaar

Amritananda Chakravorty Mihir Samson

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging Rule 2(b) of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 which seeks to amend Rule 9 of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005 (‘PMLA Rules’’). Submission of an Aadhaar Number has been made mandatory for individual clients, companies, partnership firms and trusts for opening of bank accounts; maintaining existing bank accounts; making any financial transactions of and above Rs. 50,000; and crediting foreign remittance into ‘small accounts’.
The petition further seeks to challenge the Circular dated 23.03.2017 issued by the Department of Telecommunication, wherein it has been made mandatory for all mobile phone holders to link their mobile numbers with Aadhaar. The petition claims that the circular and the amendment are in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
The petition argues that the provision is a violation of the privacy of the citizens and that there are other ways to verify an account without disrupting the privacy of an individual. Present and potential bank account holders, who do not wish to part with their biometric information, thus equating all the other citizens with money launderersand alleged offenders under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The petition said that the provision regarding bank accounts and mobile phones, both separately create an “impermissible artificial distinction” between those who have parted with their private, biometric information and those who have not. They both compel the latter category of the population to part with their biometrics for opening and maintaining bank accounts or for a mobile phone connection.Besides, both the provision and the circular are violative of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (hereinafter, “Aadhaar Act”) which limits the purpose of the Aadhaar number to receipt of a public subsidy, benefit or a service.
The Government had, in June this year, made it mandatory for consumers to link their bank accounts with their Aadhaar cards. As per the notification, Existing bank account holders need to furnish the Aadhaar number by 31.12.2017, failing which the account will not be operational anymore. A press release has also been issued by the RBI on 21.10.2017, clarifying that linking Aadhar and bank accounts is mandatory.The clarification has been issued as a response to news reports which claimed that RBI had not issued instructions so far regarding mandatory linking of Aadhar number with the bank accounts. [Dr. Kalyani Menon Sen v Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1002 of 2017]

Major Decisions
i. Every inter-religious marriage cannot be treated as ‘love-jihad’ or ‘ghar wapsi’ – The Kerala High Court held that every case of a marriage between two people from different religions cannot be termed as ‘love-jihad’ or ‘ghar wapsi’. The Court further came down heavily on centres indulging in forced conversions or re-conversions and asked the police to immediately take legal actions against such centres. In this case, a Hindu woman who had fallen in love with a Muslim classmate, also the petitioner in this petition, was forcefully lodged into a ‘yoga kendra’ where she, with other inmates, and was brutally beaten if she asked to go back, all with the aim of restoring her to her original religion, Hinduism. [Anees Hameed v State of Kerala, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 313 of 2017, date of judgment: 19.10.2017]

ii. Petition to bring CBI under RTI filed – A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s decision in 2011 to keep CBI out of the purview of RTI Act. The Petitioner alleges that the agency was brought out of the ambit of the RTI, as he had sought information regarding documents relating to the politically-sensitive Bofors payoff scandal case. Earlier the case had been filed in the Delhi High Court, but seeing similar petitions being filed across the country, the CBI asked the petitions to be shifted to the Supreme Court. The Petition also pointed out that the intelligence and security organisations that were to be exempt from the Act were already mentioned in the Second schedule to the Act and the government could not have inadvertently missed the name of an agency like CBI.

iii. Constitution of Local Complaints Committee ordered to look into allegations of sexual harassment - The Orissa High Court has directed the Collector-cum-District Magistrate, Ganjam to constitute a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) that would investigate complaints of sexual harassment where the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has not been constituted. The petition, a teacher in a school in the district of Ganjam, had complained against repeated sexual harassment by the headmaster of the school, but no action had been taken on the complaint by the State authorities, which is in clear violation of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. [Sasmita Majari Satapathy Vs. State of Orissa, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 18672 of 2017, date of judgment: 10.10.2017] (IPA/To be continued)

Monday, 30 October, 2017