The deadline for linking an Aadhaar number to a Universal Account Number (UAN) and validating it has been extended till November 31 by the Delhi High Court. Employers would be allowed to deposit provident funds for employees who have not been seeded till then, and no disciplinary actions will be taken against them, according to the sitting judge of the Delhi High Court, India Prathiba M Singh.
"Until and unless the issue of whether mandatory seeding is legally valid or not is determined, as per Aadhaar judgement, there cannot be any exclusion of benefits to employees under the Act, due to failure to authenticate or verify with Aadhaar," Justice Prathiba M Singh has said in her order dated 17th September 2021. She further added that "Insofar as those persons for whom the Aadhaar number seeding is yet to take place are concerned, the date for completing the seeding and verification shall stand extended till November 30, 2021. In the meantime, employers shall be permitted to deposit the provident funds in respect of employees for whom seeding has not taken place and no coercive measures shall be taken against them for non-seeding of Aadhaar numbers with UANs."
The court order has also clarified that the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) would appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer who can be contacted by the petitioner's members or any other employer, to ensure that the deposits are made on or before time. The court determined that employers can deposit provident funds for employees whose Aadhaar numbers have already been given to the EPFO without relying upon verification by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) while the verification procedure is underway. It further directed that for the time being, no punitive actions be taken against the employers for late payments due to technical issues from June 1 to 15.
The Association of Industries and Institutions petitioned the Delhi High Court to extend the Aadhaar-UAN linking timeframe. A petitioner is a group of companies and individuals that claim to own and operate industrial/commercial establishments, factories, institutions, and other businesses. It opposed an EPFO circular published on June 1 that made the seeding of Aadhaar and UAN established under the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, obligatory. The deadline for compliance was set at September 1, according to a central government directive released on June 15.
According to the petitioner, the EFPO's order has created substantial hardship for employers. It claimed that there was a discrepancy between the Aadhaar record and the EPFO database in some cases, forcing employers to refuse to hire workers/employees who did not have valid Aadhaar cards. According to the Association, migrant workers who returned to their regions or rejoined their employment after the lockdown ended were unable to get necessary documents for linking their Aadhaar with UAN.
According to the EPFO, the time limit for linking has been extended until December 31 for establishments in the North East and a specific class of establishments, but no further extensions could be conferred in particular for employees whose Aadhaar has not been linked with the UAN as enough time has passed since the first notification in October 2017 when employers were asked to initiate and complete the same mandatory task.