Mandatory linking of bank a/cs with Aadhaar not under RBI directive

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not issued any instructions to banks for linking the biometric identification card Aadhaar with customer accounts, a clarification that is likely open a Pandora’s box.

The government has been going all out to make the bank-Aadhaar linking mandatory and has also set a deadline of December 31, 2017 for the same after which the transactions from accounts not connected with Aadhaar will be illegal.

The RBI’s reply to an RTI query may take the government to courts as the validity of its instruction may be legally challenged. The central bank in a response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by news website said it has not issued instructions regarding mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts

“The government has issued a gazette notification GSR 538(E) dated 1 June 2017 regarding Prevention of Money laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017, inter-alia, making furnishing of Aadhaar (for those individuals who are eligible to be enrolled for Aadhaar) and permanent number (PAN) mandatory for opening a bank account. It may be noted that Reserve Bank has not yet issued an instruction in this regard,” the RBI said

The linking between bank accounts and Aadhaar has been so hyped by the Centre that banks have been threatening account-holders to furnish Aadhaar to avail of seamless banking experience or face suspension of their accounts.

It also came to notice that the central bank has not even filed any petition with the Supreme Court on seeking explicit permission of linking the two. The “RBI has not filed any petition with the Supreme Court,” it said.

Last week, Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old girl of Simdega’s Karimati village in Jharkhand, died of starvation on September 28, after her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to Aadhaar, say Right to Food Campaign activists.

In its fight against tax evasion, the Centre had made it mandatory to quote the Aadhaar number for opening bank accounts, filing returns and had also made Aadhaar compulsory for 135 schemes (of 35 ministries) including free cooking gas (LPG) to poor women, kerosene and fertiliser subsidy, targeted public distribution system (PDS) and MGNREGA.

Even though the Supreme Court has restricted the usage of Aadhaar to six schemes, the Central government has made it mandatory to link Aadhaar for over 50 centrally-sponsored schemes. The Supreme Court has, however, restricted usage of Aadhaar to six schemes where the government provides benefits or subsidy to individuals.

And it is not just banks, the government has also made Aadhaar linking mandatory for PAN card usage and even at the time of applying for a card.