December 17, 2016 4:57:57 am
The Supreme Court Friday declined to interfere at this juncture with the central government’s policy on demonetisation and various other notifications issued by the Reserve Bank of India on the subject. The court referred the larger issue of examining the constitutional validity of the decision to a five-judge bench.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur also restrained all other high courts in the country to hear matters pertaining to demonetisation and transferred all the cases to the apex court “to avoid multiplicity of hearing and conflicting decisions on the same subject matter.”
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, refused to relax the government’s decision to do away with the use of now-defunct Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency notes for public utilities, in government hospitals and for railway tickets. A bunch of petitions had sought that the relaxation to use the old currency notes should be extended for a further period in government hospitals and for booking train tickets.
But the bench said: “Whether the exemption period should be extended or not must be best left to the judgment of the government of the day with a hope that the government will be responsive and sensitive to the problems encountered by the common man. Accordingly, we decline to issue any interim direction to the government in the matter of extending the period of exemption and leave it open to the government to take appropriate decision in that behalf, as may be advised.”
The apex court, which framed nine issues for adjudication by a five-judge Constitution Bench for authoritative pronouncement on the government’s demonetisation decision, also refrained from making any amendment to the directive to limit weekly withdrawal at Rs 24,000. It hoped that the government will “fulfill this commitment” to the extent possible keeping in mind the “hardships and sufferings” faced by the general public and also review this periodically.
While examining the plea for directions to ease inconvenience of the people on the contentions that banks were not allowing withdrawal of Rs 24,000 a week, the bench took note of the submissions of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the 50-day period of streamlining cash inflow has not been exhausted.
The apex court also accepted the assurance given by the Attorney General that Rs 8,000 crore collected by district cooperative central banks across the country between November 11 to 14 will be allowed to be exchanged with new currency notes as per the rules applicable to all banks.
At the same time, the bench turned down a plea by the co-operative banks to let them accept deposits and exchange demonetised notes. “We are not inclined to suspend that bar as an interim measure. This is especially when the decision is the outcome of financial policy which the respondents (government and RBI) claim to have adopted on the basis of experience. In particular, an apprehension has been expressed about the possibility of demonetised notes being converted or exchanged without proper audit, control or supervision,” it noted.
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