THE rush to ensure all demonetised currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 are exchanged has extended to unlikely places such as storerooms of criminal courts, which have been in a state of neglect for years. The stockpile reflecting the high pendency of cases is now being dusted and vetted by court staffers to look for any such currency before it is rendered useless.
Over the past week, court staffers have been assigned the job of checking all case documents of ongoing criminal trials including anti-corruption raids to find any Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes which could be part of any evidence. This includes going through seizure memos and a list of articles attached to the chargesheet as part of the investigation. The court staffers are also going through the Valuable Property Register as part of procedure. Once it is confirmed that the now illegal tender is part of evidence, it is brought to the notice of the concerned judge.
“There are currency notes part of muddemal (seizure) which need to be factored in before the deadline for exchanging notes ends. It is left to the court concerned to pass appropriate orders in such cases based on their discretion, including taking into account the accused and the prosecution involved in the trial,” said Mangesh Patil, Registrar General, Bombay High Court.
At the Mumbai sessions court, some of the courts have called upon the accused and their lawyers as well as the prosecutors in the case to decide on such currency. “In a few cases in the past week, courts have taken a say of the accused and prosecutors and ordered for photocopies of the currency notes to be taken. The original are sent to the department to eventually exchange them,” said an official from the court. The same also goes for disposed of matters, the evidence in which lies in a room at each of the courts till the appeal period has lapsed.
In many ongoing trials, court staffers have been busy photocopying each currency note to maintain it as evidence including in cases where the seizures are in lakhs. Currency notes can be part of the seizures made from the accused or recovery made through an investigation in criminal cases. They remain part of the evidence to establish certain chain of events that led to the recovery and seizure of the notes. In anti-corruption cases, currency notes exchanged as part of a trap between the complainant and accused form a significant part of the evidence.
At the end of the trial, as per the court order, the money can be returned to the accused, the victim, or any other party to which it belonged or can be directed to be deposited to the government treasury.
Court officials said the deadline given to them to look through all evidence is December 3. “The work involves going through a lot of documents to ensure all currency notes are brought to the notice of concerned courts. There are also currency notes in counterfeit cases. The entire process is difficult. Some cases are still at an appearance stage in which the seals are yet to be broken. We have to ensure the accused and their lawyers are present when the seal is broken and their signatures taken so that they do not argue about any irregularity at the time of the trial,” said an official.