NEW DELHI: The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes would shortly be extended until March 31 next year, the Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court.
The statement was made by the Centre before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which said it may set up a five-judge Constitution bench next week to hear several pleas seeking an interim stay on the decision of mandatory linking of Aadhaar.
Attorney General K K Venugopal vehemently opposed before the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, the plea of senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for those opposing the Aadhaar scheme, that the ongoing Aadhaar enrolment process be stayed.
"There cannot be a stay on the Aadhaar scheme which has gone on for years," Venugopal said, adding that the current deadline of December 31 will be extended and a notification to this effect may be issued tomorrow itself.
Venugopal said he was ready and willing to argue the case finally and no interim stay should be granted in such an important matter.
The bench also made it clear that only a larger bench would decide on the plea for grant of interim stay on the Aadhaar scheme.
The top court said that the constitution bench would also fix the date for the final hearing and disposal of the petitions challenging the biometric identification scheme.
On November 27, the apex court had said it may consider setting up a constitution bench to hear pleas challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar card mandatory for availing various services and benefits of welfare schemes.
It had on October 30 said a constitution bench would commence hearing on the clutch of petitions against Aadhaar scheme from last week of November.
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 enrol for it.
The Attorney General had told the court that no coercive action would be taken against those who do not have the Aadhaar card but are willing to enrol for. He had said such people would not be denied the benefits of social welfare schemes till March 31.
In a note to the court, the government had said that "those who have Aadhaar are required to seed/link their Aadhaar with SIM card, with bank account, PAN card and other schemes where section 7 notifications have been issued".
"The government will be open for the deadline for linking Aadhaar to various programmes being extended for another three months till March 31, 2018 for those who do not have Aadhaar," the note had said.
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 that final hearing on the main Aadhaar matter was necessary as the government "cannot compel" citizens to link their Aadhaar with either bank accounts or cell phone numbers.