The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it will not take any “criminal action” for possessing demonetised currency against those individuals/banks who have moved the apex court for extension of the deadline to deposit demonetised notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. Attorney-general KK Venugopal told a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the protection against criminal action would only extend to the demonetised money specified in their petitions and not against the money they possess. While disposing of 14 petitions seeking its nod to deposit demonetised notes, the bench said that a five-judge Constitution bench would deal with this aspect also besides deciding the validity of Centre’s decision to demonetise currency notes.
Justice Misra said that the demonetisation law is still constitutionally valid and the apex court cannot grant them any interim relief against the law, but allowed them to be impleaded in the already pending petitions before the SC.
The petitioners argued that they have not challenged the constitutional validity of either certain provisions of the RBI Act and the Centre’s November 8, 2016 notification, rather they want to deposit their demonetised currency notes. “Our hard-earned money has been confiscated without due process of law and without granting fair opportunity,” they said.
The Centre has remained firm about not extending the deadline after the cut-off date of December 30, 2016 as doing so would defeat the very purpose of demonetisation, the government said.
On December 16, 2016, the Supreme Court had ordered setting up of a five-judge Constitution bench to test the constitutionality of the November 8, 2016 demonetisation notification and the legality of the implementation of the policy. It said that the November 8 notification was in the arena of “public importance” as complaints of inconvenience have been brought and there was a need for an “authoritative pronouncement by five judges”.