The Madras High Court on July 25, approved the plea of nine petitioners to file their Income Tax Returns (ITRs) manually without quoting Aadhaar or Aadhaar enrolment number for the assessment year 2018-19.
The interim order was passed by a division bench comprising Justices M M Sundresh and Anand Venkatesh. The bench noted that since the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar itself was yet to be decided, the petitioners could be allowed to file I-T returns without the Aadhaar.
Court's Order: Key Highlights
• The court passed the interim order after hearing submissions made by Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, briefed by Advocate Rahul Unnikrishnan, on the behalf of the petitioners. ASG G Rajagopalan made the arguments on behalf of the state.
• The petitioners had argued that following the interim orders passed by the Supreme Court in the main Aadhaar case, Aadhaar is purely voluntary until the question of its Constitutionality is settled.
• The plea of the petitioners also highlighted that apart from the Supreme Court, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) itself had extended the last date for Aadhaar linkage to March 2019, pending the decision in the Constitutional challenge.
• Appearing for the respondents, ASG Rajagopalan countered that the petitioners were insisting on a procedure that is not contemplated by the law as it stands.
• It was pointed out that since the Constitutionality of this provision has been upheld, the procedure in Section 139AA of the IT Act should be followed.
• After hearing all the arguments, the court ultimately allowed the petitioners’ plea to allow the manual filing of ITR without quoting Aadhaar, after noting that similar reliefs were granted by several other High Courts as well.
• In its interim order, the bench noted an order allowing the filing of manual returns would not be prejudicial to the Income Tax (IT) authorities.
• However, 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 also clarified that the order would only be applicable to the nine petitioners who approached the court and that the matter would be taken up again after the Supreme Court verdict.
As per Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, the assessees are required to quote their Aadhaar Card number or the Aadhaar enrolment number when filing Income Tax Returns (ITRs).
Apart from those who earn less than five lakhs per annum or those above 80 years of age, all income tax assessees are required to file their ITR online, under the current system.
The Supreme Court had on May 10 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law after a marathon hearing.
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