THE SUPREME Court on Tuesday gave the Centre and Reserve Bank of India two weeks time to consider granting a window to those who have not been able to exchange scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes for “genuine reasons”.
“You (Centre) cannot be allowed to deprive a person of his money if he couldn’t deposit it due to some genuine problems. Consider giving a window to a genuine problem. What if someone is terminally ill and couldn’t deposit the money,” said a bench of Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud. “There can be a situation where a person can be in a position of hardship… Suppose a person was in jail during the period… We want to know why you chose to bar such person from depositing money,” said the bench.
The court was hearing petitions challenging the government’s notification which disallowed people from depositing old notes after a prescribed time. Responding to the query, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said the government had not considered individual cases.
“If you are not giving a person, who could not deposit their money for genuine reasons, another chance, then it raises a serious issue. No individual can be deprived of his private property,” said the CJI.
“You cannot take the money away” if a person says that it was his failing that he could not deposit the money and justifies that “under no circumstance could he have deposited them”, the court said.
Kumar said it was up to the RBI to decide cases on an individual basis. “RBI can come out with a circular that individual cases may deposit their money if genuine, but no class of persons,” he said.
The CJI remarked that even the individual cases will become a class by themselves. The SG then sought time, saying he would take instructions from the government. The court said both the Centre and RBI should respond on the issue, and gave them two weeks to file their replies.
On November 8 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would be scrapped from the next day. The government had assured that the demonetised notes could be exchanged at banks, post offices and RBI branches till December 30, 2016. Those unable to deposit the notes by that day could do so at RBI branches till March 31, 2017, after complying with certain formalities.
However, it was later specified that only 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, could deposit the demonetised currency notes till March 31. The petitioners said the government’s decision to not extend the deadline for the general public amounted to breach of its assurance.