The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the government’s move to link Aadhaar with Permanent Account Number (PAN) and refused to make it compulsory for those who don’t have an Aadhaar card or who have not yet applied for one, till the Constitutional Bench decides the privacy question.

The apex court, however, asserted that those who have Aadhaar must link it with PAN card for Income Tax returns.

The apex court pronounced its verdict on petitions challenging constitutional validity of newly inserted section in the Income Tax Act that makes linking of Aadhaar number with PAN mandatory.

The bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had on 4 May reserved the order on the pleas by senior Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Binoy Visman, former Major General of Indian Army SG Vombatkere and Convenor of Safai Karamchari Andolan Bezwada Wilson, who had challenged the validity of Section 139AA.

The petitioners had told the court that the provision mandating linking of Aadhaar number with the PAN would have “extremely far-reaching consequences not only for individuals but small businesses too”.

The top court in its earlier orders had said that the government could insist upon Aadhaar only for distribution of food grains, LPG and other schemes, including MNREGA, old-age pension scheme, provident fund and Prime Minister’s Jan-Dhan Yojana.

Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act 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 with effect from 1 July 2017.

(With inputs from agencies)