Citing “gross inconvenience” caused to the public owing to the Union government’s decision to demonetise all currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination starting Tuesday midnight, two advocates Wednesday mentioned the matter before the Bombay High Court asking it to take suo motu congnisance of the issue. The lawyers, Jamshed Mistry and Jabbar Singh, moved the HC vacation bench arguing that the government’s move was rushed and had caused unprecedented inconvenience to the public.
Justice M S Karnik, who was presiding over the bench, has now directed the lawyers to plead their case before a regular bench saying “there were several questions of law involved”. Prime Minister Modi announced the decision Tuesday night to demonetise Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes from midnight as a step to fight the menace of black money in the country.
Advocates Mistry and Singh also cited a November 2 notification of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that was sent out to all nationalised banks. In the notification, the RBI had said as part of a ‘pilot project’ all banks must ensure that “within the next 15 days” at least 10 per cent of their authorised ATM machines should be calibrated to dispense currency notes of Rs 100 denomination.
Advocate Mistry argued that the notification made it clear that this project was initiated on a pilot basis and the Centre shouldn’t have rushed into it.
As per law, he added, the government needed to come out with an ordinance and then an Act before such a move and the same could not have been done merely by issuing a gazette notification. “Merely giving four hours’ notice is no notice at all,” Mistry said during the arguments.
In 1978, he said, an ordinance followed by The High Denomination Bank Notes Act 1978 was passed to bring into effect the demonetisation effect. “Therefore, the requirement is that the current demonetisation could have been done only through an ordinance, or amendment of the Act, and not merely through a gazetted notification,” said Mistry.
He added that a person’s right to life and the right to conduct business had been severely affected by this move. “The RBI Act has to be amended if demonitisation has to take place, which is not being done by the present notification,” said Mistry.