The Supreme Court has lauded the objective behind the demonetisation of high-value currency notes, but asked the Centre to take urgent measures to help the common people get money from banks and ATMs smoothly.
"The objective behind demonetisation+ is to force those who have hoards of black money to deposit it in banks. The objective is laudable because black money is used to fund terrorism of various forms to weaken economy," a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and D Y Chandrachud said on Tuesday.
The bench asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to file an affidavit within a week detailing the steps being taken by the government to ease people's problems in getting money. The court also asked the Centre to consider raising the withdrawal limit.
PILs by four advocates had challenged the Centre's power under the Reserve Bank of India Act to carry out demonetisation in the manner employed in the current exercise, and sought the declaration of the notification unconstitutional.
Appearing for them, senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Kamini Jaiswal said they were not seeking stay of the notification, but questioned the legitimacy of the Centre's decision and the manner of its implementation. "It is truly a cashless society. No one has cash now. Under what law and authority can the government impose a ceiling on withdrawal of cash by citizens?" Sibal asked.
In response, Rohatgi said the printing press was working day and night to meet the demand for the new currency notes, and said the real problem was for a section "that must either declare their wealth or use black money as toilet paper".
The bench summed up the contending arguments saying, "The government claims that it is a surgical strike against black money. But Sibal claims it to be carpet-bombing of citizens."
The bench told Rohatgi, "For the present, we will focus only on the inconvenience being faced by common men... Can the government do something urgently to help citizens who are forced to stand for hours in queue? Why can't the withdrawal limit be raised?Common men cannot be made to suffer like this. Consider some measures which will reduce the inconvenience of common men who have nothing to do with black money."
Rohatgi said, "W hen a decision of this magnitude is taken... there will be some inconvenience. The government at the highest level is monitoring the situation daily and taking steps to help save commoners from harassment."
Sibal said the government had no inkling about the fallout of the decision and no preparation to handle the disbursement of the new currency notes or the Rs 100 ones to citizens. "Why is the government asking for identity proof from citizens when they withdraw their legitimate money from banks?" he asked.
Rohatgi made a political statement in response and said, "For 50 years since Independence, citizens had been kept on wait for years to get a gas connection, a scooter, a car, schools for education and even opening of bank accounts. In implementing demonetisation, there is bound to be some inconvenience for some days. This wait is negligible compared to the wait for 50 years."
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Written & Published in timesofindia.indiatimes.com