Allowing a prayer made by nine petitioners, the Madras High court today allowed the manual filing of Income Tax Returns (ITRs) without quoting Aadhaar or an Aadhaar enrolment number for the Assessment Year 2018-2019..The Division Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and Anand Venkatesh allowed the same after making note of the submissions that the larger issue of the Constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme itself is yet to be decided..In the interim, the Bench 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..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 Income Tax Returns (ITRs)..Although the provision was partially stayed in the Binoy Viswam case, a single judge of the Madras High Court took the view that the stay was limited to transactions falling under Rule 114B of the Income Tax Rules. This provision mandates the quoting of PAN number for a multitude of transactions and requires that PAN be quoted in all documents..For the petitioners, however, it was contended that this Madras High Court ruling was rendered per incuriam, as it runs contrary to various orders passed by the Supreme Court..It was their case 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. .As noted in the affidavit,.“Thus, Aadhaar remains a purely voluntary scheme both under the Aadhaar Act, and under a series of orders of the Supreme Court.”.It was pointed out that the scheme was initially launched to ensure the delivery of certain subsidies and benefits. Moreover, the Supreme Court has also passed interim orders confining its use to six specific schemes, none of which are availed by the petitioners. .In the course of arguments made today, Datar also pointed out that there is no opt-out provision when it comes to Aadhaar, which means any enrolment done would be permanent. To alleviate such concern, Datar suggested that there should be an opting out provision, especially when the linked service is no longer required by the person..Inter alia, Datar also alluded to informational privacy, which has now been read into Article 21 of the Constitution..With regard to the instant case, it was also highlighted that apart from the Supreme Court, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) itself has extended the last date for Aadhaar linkage to March 2019, pending the decision in the Constitutional challenge..“…the Central Board of Direct Taxes (“CBDT”) issued an order under s. 119 of the Act to extend the last date of linking Aadhaar with PAN from 31.03.2018 to 30.06.2018. Further, on 30.06.2018, it was further extended to 31.03.2019..This suggests that the CBDT consciously decided against mandating the linking of the Aadhaar number in order to file a return with the Income Tax Department.”.While this was the case, the petitioner pointed out that the online system for filing ITR was not updated to allow filing the ITR without quoting Aadhaar / Enrolment ID. .Save for persons 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. Therefore the petitioners were also required to file ITRs by quoting their Aadhaar/Enrolment ID. .“…while trying to file his return of income for the AY 2018-19 through the e-filing facility through the portal https://www.incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/home, [he] realised that the software was not accepting the return without filling in the column for the Aadhaar number/Aadhaar Enrolment ID.”.It was argued that when the Aadhaar scheme is being treated as voluntary in the interim, it cannot be made mandatory in this manner..Appearing for the respondents, ASG Rajagopalan countered that the petitioners were insisting on a procedure (i.e. manual filing of returns) 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..Rajagopalan also contended that the petitioners were not prejudiced by the current system in response to a query posed by Justice Sundresh..“After all, Additional General, what is going to happen (if the plea for the manual filing of ITR is allowed)?” Justice Sundresh had asked..In response, the ASG countered, “The question is what is the prejudice caused to him? …. What right … is affected by indicating that he has applied for an Aadhaar card?”.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. .However, it was clarified that the order would only be applicable to the nine petitioners who approached the Court. Further, the order would be subject to the final decision taken by the Supreme Court on the Constitutionality of Aadhaar. The matter is expected to be taken up again after this Supreme Court verdict.