Govt remains firm on demonetisation despite SC stand on HC proceedings
The government dug in its heels and remained firm on demonetization despite the Supreme Court’s neutral stand on its plea for bunching of all cases in this regard. The Apex Court on Wednesday declined to stay various demonetisation related proceedings in different High Courts of the country. As such, there are a couple of petitions challenging the demonetisation in the Apex Court itself and the Centre wanted a stay on any proceeding in the same matter in any other high court as it could lead to a multiplicity of verdicts which may be conflicting. However, a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Tirath Singh Thakur declined to stay any proceeding and fixed the matter for hearing on December 2, 2016.
Attorney General for India Mukul Rohtagi had on behalf of the Union of India earlier moved an application that all cases pertaining to demonetization be either shifted to one High Court or to the Supreme Court itself to avoid conflicting verdicts. In today’s proceedings, he told the CJI bench that multiple petitions in different high courts on the same issue was creating a problem for the government. However, the Apex Bench declined to stay any proceeding and simply adjourned the matter to December 2 for further hearings.
However, the CJI reasoned out that the people belonging to different states may get “immediate relief” with the respective high courts’ orders in the matter and hence declined to stay any proceeding in the same matter before any other high court of any state. The bench also comprised justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao.
Further, an interesting information was submitted by the AG to a pointed query by the bench that “what is the situation now and what you have done”. The AG replied “In the decisive war against black money, corruption and terrorist funding, so far more than 6 lakh crores have been deposited in various banks across the country” and that the “situation is much better now” and the aim of the government was to remove the “slush money” accumulated over the past 70 odd years.
He also told the Apex Court that the Centre has set up a committee to take stock of the situation on the ground and the aim is to reduce the cash transaction in the market. He said that the cash transaction in the markets should not be more than four percent of the GDP but it is 12 percent as on date in India. “Hence, the government has declared this decisive war,” Rohtagi argued.
The issue involves limitation of the withdrawal also. The Bench asked the AG why the withdrawal limit was “squeezed” to Rs. 2,000 to which the AG replied thousands of crores were to be carried to various centers in the entire country and ATMs have to be recalibrated. This gave credence to the court’s observation that preparedness was not there. If there is a decisive war and if any scheme or policy has to be implemented on a war footing, there should be preparedness also. For example, even for a general war or a surgical operation planning, preparedness and execution are key areas.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s submission that over Rs six lakh crore have been deposited so far and queues in banks, ATMs, post offices have shortened remarkably and, if required, the time limit of depositing and exchanging the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 old notes may be extended beyond December 30, did not impress the bench to provide any relief to the Centre.
The high denomination currency notes of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 used to constitute 80 to 85 percent of the legal tender and the top law officer said demonetising them was a “move to remove 70 years of slush money.”
“If it takes another 20-30 days to remove it, I do not think its a big deal,” he told the bench adding that “it is a success till now.”
“The money will be used in the economy and the lending rates will come down,” he told the bench which only issued notices and sought the response of those who have approached different high courts on the Centre’s plea seeking transfer of the matters to the apex court or any one of the high courts.