BEHIND BARS since 2014, an undertrial before the Mumbai sessions court was allowed to be released on provisional cash bail as per a court order a day before the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Now, the undertrial’s release will be delayed as the cash department on Wednesday did not accept money in the demonetised currency notes. With no family in the city, his co-inmates had arranged for Rs 15,000 towards his bail amount and dispatched this to his lawyer. The inmates lodged in a city prison did not know that the money, collected in notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, suddenly had no value.
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With no specific notification to the court, the staff did not accept the currency notes that are now not legal tender. Many undertrials who received cash bail orders were caught in the situation and may not be released from prison soon.
One of the lawyers at the sessions court said, “I went to the department to process the bail order but was told by the staff that they will only accept Rs 100 notes. The bail amount was of Rs 15,000 and I could not arrange so many Rs 100 notes,” the lawyer said.
He added that the department asked them to get specific orders from the court on accepting the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Another lawyer said since no direction was available, the court did not pass such an order to accept the currency notes on his oral request to the judge.
Lawyers said while the provisional cash bail ensures that undertrials are released on the same day, the arrangement for currency notes will cause a delay of at least a week. “One of my clients is not from the city with no relative here. I will have to deposit the money in my account and withdraw it. But with the restriction on withdrawals from banks, the process should take some time,” said another lawyer.
Meanwhile, another problem related to the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes arose before the Mumbai Police. Stolen cash that the police have recovered and was yet to be handed over to the complainant could end up being devalued if the same is not exchanged. The stolen cash becomes “government property” before the court hands it over to the complainant.
“At times, it could take months, before the money is given back to the person from whom it was stolen, since technically stolen property becomes government property and has to be handed over by the court to the complainant. Now, if the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in the stolen property are not exchanged before December 30, they will no longer be legal tender and be of no value to the complainant,” an officer said.
A senior IPS officer, however, said they would be writing to the government to get a circular whereby the money can be exchanged against valid tender at a later stage.