As many as 10.52 lakh "bogus" PAN cards of individual income tax assesses, which is around 0.4 per cent of the total such documents, cannot be termed a "minuscule" number to harm the country's economy, the Supreme Court has said.
The apex court said that it has come on record that 11.35 lakh duplicate or fraudulent permanent account numbers have been detected and out of these, 10.52 lakh cases pertain to individual assesses.
It made the observations in a 157-page judgement, while upholding the validity of section 139AA of the Income Tax Act making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of tax returns. The court, however, put a partial stay on its implementation till its Constitution Bench addressed the larger issue of right to privacy related to Aadhaar.
Section 139AA of the 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 July 1 this year. "It was sought to be argued (by the petitioners) that persons found with duplicate/bogus PAN cards are hardly 0.4 per cent and, therefore, there was no need to have such a provision," a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri said on Friday.
"We cannot go by percentage figures. The absolute number of such cases is 10.52 lakh, which figure, by no means, can be termed as minuscule to harm the economy and create adverse effect on the nation," the bench, also comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, said.
Dealing with the submissions advanced by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that duplicate PANs were used to divert funds to shell companies, the bench said, "The fact remains that companies are after all floated by individuals and these individuals have to produce documents to show their identity."
It said that if introducing Aadhaar in tax regime was one of the measures to check black money or money laundering, the scheme cannot be "denounced" only because of the reason that the purpose would not be achieved fully.
"Such kind of a menace, which is deep-rooted, needs to be tackled by taking multiple actions and those actions may be initiated at the same time," it noted. "It is the combined effect of these actions which may yield results and each individual action considered in isolation may not be sufficient."