The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Income Tax (I-T) Department to provide an additional button on its tax-filing portal to allow filing of tax returns without Aadhaar number.

People without Aadhaar number can now file their income tax returns (ITR) online, after the Delhi High Court Tuesday asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to accept e-filing returns without quoting an Aadhaar or Aadhaar enrolment number.

A Bench of judges S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla said as the CBDT has extended the deadline for the PAN-Aadhaar linking to March 31, 2019, there should be an “opt out” option for people filing their returns online.

It directed the CBDT to make changes in their platform, so that people do not have inconvenience while filing returns for year 2017-18. This was the fifth time the Centre has extended the deadline for individuals to link their Permanent Account Number (PAN) to their biometric ID (Aadhaar).

The bench reiterated that it had earlier in other matter had directed the authorities to ensure that the two advocates returns are accepted “without indicating any linkage with Aadhaar No./quoting Aadhaar Enrolment No. or quoting Aadhaar No. with PAN details”.

The court’s order came on a plea by Shreya Sen and Jayshree Satpute, who sought direction to allow them to file their ITR for their income for FY18, without the requirement of providing an Aadhaar enrolment number.

The petitioners, both of whom are Delhi resident, said in their plea “despite orders, and multiple attempts, they have not been able to file their ITR, since there is no available option to opt-out of providing an Aadhaar or Aadhaar Enrollment number during e-filing, on the website.

“The petitioners hold valid Indian passports, and PAN cards, other among valid forms of identification, needed to file ITR. However, despite having all other documents, they have not been able to file their ITR electronically for the want of an Aadhaar Enrollment number, which they do not possess,” their plea said, adding that the last date for filing their return for 2017-18, without attracting penalty, is July 31.

Last year, the Indian government, through an new amendment in Section 139AA Income Tax, had mandated linking of PAN with Aadhaar. In one of the case, a two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court considered legality of the provision and ruled that it was not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

The bench did not consider Right to Privacy at that time, since this matter was being heard before the Constitutional Bench. The SC held that those who had not yet enrolled in the Aadhaar were free to file ITR without quoting the number, until the pronouncement in the Right to Privacy matter. The Constitution Bench later declared that Right to Life under Article 21 includes Right to Privacy as per judgment in other case.

In the current petition, the petitioners contended that the SC order entitles them to not quote Aadhaar number while filing tax returns. However, the online tax filing process does not give them any option to file their ITR without quoting Aadhaar.

Separately, the Madras High Court also allowed nine petitioners to file their ITRs without quoting their Aadhaar or enrolment numbers. According to a report from Bar & Bench, the Division Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and Anand Venkatesh opined that an order allowing the filing of manual returns would not be prejudicial to the Income Tax (IT) authorities. The Court observed that if the Supreme Court decides to uphold the Constitutionality of Aadhaar, then the petitioners would have to file their ITR again by quoting Aadhaar.
The Court passed the interim order after hearing submissions made by Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, briefed by Advocate Rahul Unnikrishnan, for the petitioners. ASG G Rajagopalan made arguments for the state, the report says.
As per Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, assessees are required to quote their Aadhaar Card number or the Aadhaar enrolment number when filing ITRs.
Indian Express and Moneylife