The Supreme Court today said if it decides to grant relief for extension of the window for exchanging scrapped notes, it will be not in individual cases but for the general public. “If there has to be a window (extension for depositing demonetised notes) then all of you (petitioners and others) have to be considered,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul said.
It was hearing a batch of pleas including the one filed by Sudha Mishra challenging the Centre’s decision not to allow the public at large to deposit demonetised currency notes till March 31 as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others as the window ended on December 30 last year.
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Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, referred to the recent affidavit filed by the government on the issue and said that “we have given the reasons as to why we do not want to open the window”.
“I am bound by the court’s order… There cannot be a separate window (to deposit notes) for individuals. If the court allows and grants the window (relief) then it has to be for all,” he said.
When some lawyers, representing persons who wanted to deposit currency notes besides seeking other reliefs, started arguing their individual cases, the AG said, “Then, I will have to file separate counter affidavits on the facts of each case.” The court then posted the petitions for hearing after the summer vacations.
Earlier, the Centre, in its affidavit, had told the apex court that it has taken a “conscious decision” not to extend the period beyond December 30 last year for exchanging demonetised currency notes unlike for the NRIs, and security personnel posted in remote areas, which ended on March 31.
The government has also said it was not legally bound to come out with a fresh notification to grant grace period or window for depositing scrapped currency notes.
The affidavit has given details about the raids and seizures made by the law-enforcing agencies during and after the demonetisation period claiming that undisclosed income of over Rs 5,400 crore was detected.
The apex court had on March 6 issued notice to the Centre and the RBI on one of the pleas alleging that people were not being allowed to deposit demonetised currency notes till March 31 as promised.
One of the petitions also referred to the speech of the prime minister on November 8, 2016 and subsequent notification of the RBI spelling out that people may deposit demonetised currency notes even after December 31, 2016 at specific RBI branches up to March 31, 2017 after complying with certain procedural requirements.
It has referred to the Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance and said it had gone against the assurance.
The ordinance had said that only those who were abroad, the armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who could give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the cancelled notes at banks, could deposit demonetised currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 till March 31 this year after the deadline expired on December 30, 2016.