The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government and the RBI to consider granting a window to those who were unable to exchange demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for genuine reasons, saying that people with a legitimate reason should not lose their money for no fault of theirs. A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar asked the government to inform by July 17 whether citizens can get another chance to deposit the demonetised notes. “You cannot trash a person’s genuine hard-earned money and let it go waste like this… you had promised them a window, now you can’t go back on your word to those who had genuine difficulty,” the Supreme Court said. “If a person can prove it is his money and he/she had real difficulty in depositing by December 31, he must get a chance to change them,” the apex court said, adding: “if these genuine people are not given a chance, it is a serious issue.”
“You (Centre) cannot be allowed to deprive a person of his money if he couldn’t deposit 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,” the bench said. “There can be a situation where a person has lost his/her money for no fault. Suppose a person was in jail during the period… We want to know as to why you chose to bar such persons,” the court said. Last month, banks and post offices were given a month to deposit the old, big banknotes that they had received with the RBI, provided they had been collected before December 30.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, initially said the policy was not individual-centric and later sought time to take instruction on the issue as to whether an opportunity, on a case-to-case basis, can be given to those who could not deposit the money due to valid reasons. The bench was hearing a batch of petitions, including one filed by Sudha Mishra and Bengaluru-based transport company Victory Logitrans, alleging that RBI’s refusal to accept old notes was a violation of statutory notification issued on November 8, 2016.
They alleged that the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, promulgated on December 13, 2016, penalised those who deposited demonetised money after December 31, 2016. They sought a direction to authorities to allow them to deposit demonetised notes. The finance ministry has already told the SC that it cannot extend the “grace period” to June 30 for the entire citizenry of the country.
“… no mandamus lies against the government for enforcing a legislative activity. There is no legal duty case upon the government to issue any notification extending the grace period,” the government said in its affidavit.