SC asks banks to specify deadline for linking Aadhar with accounts

The top court is hearing a raft of petitions challenging the government’s directive for mandatory linking of Aadhaar number raising privacy concerns especially after a recent leak of citizens details including mobile numbers and bank details

Several customers have been complaining of messages that implied disconnection if the numbers were not linked immediately although the last day for doing so for bank accounts is December 31 (March 31, 2018, for those without cards now) and for mobile numbers, February 6, 2018.

According to a report in a leading news paper, the government has made a decision to extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar with existing bank accounts from December 31, 2017 to March 31.

The petitions sought to challenge a circular issued in March by the department of telecommunication, making it mandatory for all mobile phone holders to link their numbers with Aadhaar by February 6, 2018. However, petitioners are free to ask for an extension in the Aadhaar linking of bank accounts, if the hearing of the case is delayed.

When the government denied that such messages were being sent, one of the judges, Justice AK Sikri commented: "Initially I didn't want to say because the press is here, but I am also receiving such messages".

However, the apex court has instructed banks and telecom companies to specify the deadline for Aadhaar linkage in their communication with consumers in order to avoid confusion in the general public.

The Supreme Court observed that panic could set in among people if mobile operators and banks continued bombarding customers with text messages asking them to submit their Aadhaar details.

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Hearing a batch of PILs seeking an interim order, the bench said, "Time has already been extended up to December 31".

A division bench headed by justice A.K. Sikri also issued notice on a plea challenging the validity of the 2016 Aadhaar Act, citing privacy concerns and reports that the biometric system was not functioning properly.

If you're among those who receive constant, nagging "reminders" to link your Aadhaar number with your bank account and mobile phone connection, then the Supreme Court shares your anguish.

The Centre further added that the 12-digit number and the mobile number must be linked within the stipulated time frame since a decision like extending the deadline can not be extended unilaterally.

Such a bench is expected to soon hear a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar on the ground that it violated citizens' right to privacy.

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