Noting that it poses a “national level threat”, the Bombay High Court has passed an ex-parte (without hearing the opposite party) interim order restraining known and unknown entities from operating websites and other services claiming to provide PAN card services on behalf of government-owned UTI Infrastructure Technology and Services Limited (UTIITSL).
The Indian government has made it mandatory for PAN card holders to link it to their Aadhar card, which is an acceptable proof of identification, therefore, any potential misuse of the licence/authorisation to issue PAN cards, would be highly detrimental not only to the interest of the company but also to the national interest, said Justice Bharati Dangre on January 12.
The high court was hearing an application filed by UTIITSL seeking restraining order against several companies and unknown persons from infringing upon its copyright and acts of passing off. The company provides services relating to and in connection with the issuance of Permanent Account Number (PAN) card. Since 2002, it is authorised by the Income Tax Department to process PAN and related services like issuance of Aadhar card, voter ID and driving license. The agreement for such services is valid till March 2024.
The court order in the petitioner company’s favour observing that if such fake websites were allowed to remain active then it would cause irreparable damage and would compromise valuable confidential data of the company.
Its application claimed that defendants (known and unknown entities) have deliberately infringed upon its copyright and made unauthorised use of its label and marks in an almost identical manner to show that the defendants are authorised to provide the services which are exclusive to it.
Justice Dangre noted that the company’s services were exclusive in nature underpinning the national importance of its work to the citizens of India.
“It cannot be in dispute that the PAN system is of paramount importance on a national scale due to its multifaceted impact on governance, taxation and financial integrity and it can be said to be the cornerstone of a robust financial economic system,” the judge said.
It added, “PAN related services are pivotal in fostering fiscal discipline and ensuring a transparent and accountable economic framework, as apart from being a unique identifier for individuals and entities, it also aims at streamlining the tax recovery and payment process.”
By providing identical services, the defendants unauthorizedly collect personal and confidential data of citizens and may sometimes mislead them into making payments and fabricate public documents, the plea contended.
Underlining the importance of PAN Card, the judge said it is mandatory to track and maintain record of all financial transactions concerning a citizen of this country and corporations in India. “The primary object of PAN is to provide a universal identification key to track financial transactions, for whatever reasons; one of the prominent reasons being to ascertain the taxable component to prevent tax evasion,” the judge remarked.
The high court has kept the matter for hearing on February 20.