On Tuesday, the Supreme Court appealed to the Centre to consider opening a window for people who couldn’t deposit demonetised notes in banks for “genuine reasons” post demonetisation.
The Centre stood its ground and maintained that the restrictions were intended to prevent black money bearers from depositing their cash, and giving grace time by opening a new window could sabotage the intent.
According to a New Indian Express report, the bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and D Y Chandrachud countered the argument saying, “You (Government) can’t be allowed to deprive a person of his money if he couldn’t deposit it due to genuine problems. Give a window to a genuine problem. What if someone is terminally ill and couldn’t deposit the money? If he is able to prove that it is his legitimate money then how can you deprive him of his money? You cannot take his money away.”
Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, who represented the Centre, tried to rationalise the government’s stand. He said the window was closed to avoid malpractices. But the bench clearly said, “Don’t force us to pass a three line order and quash your December 30 notification.”
November 8, 2016 marked demonetisation when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would be scrapped the next day onward. But the government assured that old notes could be exchanged at banks, post offices and RBI branches till December 30, 2016. In addition to that, it also maintained that those unable to deposit the notes by Dec 30, could do so at RBI branches till March 31, 2017, after observing certain rules.
The government later specified that the March 31 deadline only applied to those who were abroad or armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who could give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the scrapped notes at banks.
The above appeal from the apex court was a result of hearing a batch of petitions challenging the March 31 deadline to deposit demonetised notes. The petitioners who challenged the government included women, one of whom was a window, some overseas Indians, a woman who discovered Rs 1 lakh months after her husband’s death, a lady who was ill, someone who had just delivered a baby and so on.
CJI Khehar explained the court’s stand through an analogy. An Economic Times report mentioned him saying, “Money is like “property”. And the Right to property, which used to be a fundamental right earlier, is now a legal right. Citizens cannot be deprived of property without following due process and without adequate compensation.”
“If I can prove and establish that it is my money, you cannot deprive me of my property. That would be wrong.”
The CJI emphasised that the government take measures to check the genuinity of a case and then take a call.
The Solicitor General has now informed the court that the government is open to examining these such cases on individual basis, but court should not permit opening the window to people at large. The Supreme Court has given the Narendra Modi government and the RBI two weeks’ time to come up with alternatives to the issue.