The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay proceedings in several PILs pending in various high courts and a civil court against the government’s November 8 decision to scrap R500 and R1,000 banknotes.
While seeking reply from the petitioners, a bench led by Chief Justice TS Thakur declined to stay the proceedings, saying “there are various issues. People may get immediate relief from the high courts”.
The petitioners have challenged the demonetisation move on various grounds, including the decision being illegal and the limits on cash withdrawals being unreasonable. The bench also posted the matter for further hearing on next Friday (December 2).
The government had moved the apex court on Monday seeking to transfer all pending cases against demonetisation to a single HC or to the top court as proceedings in various courts were creating difficulties.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi claimed that demonetisation was a “success” as over R6 lakh crore have already been deposited and about R10 lakh crore was expected to come to the exchequer till December-end which would prevent hoarding of cash. The high denomination notes of R1,000 and R500 used to constitute 80-85% of the legal tender and “if it takes another 20-30 days to remove it, I do not think it’s a big deal”.
He said money is being pumped into banking channels to be ploughed back into the economy and demonetisation is giving impetus to digital banking. “In India cash economy is 12% of GDP, against the global benchmark of 4%… Demonetisation will help reduce the extent of the cash economy and will usher into greater transparency,” he said, adding: “The money will be used in the economy and the lending rates will come down.
Rohatgi informed the bench that the situation is much better on the ground and the queues are getting smaller. Last week on Friday, the apex court had refused the Centre’s plea to stay proceedings on different petitions pending in various high courts and other trial courts, saying people have a right to approach courts and they cannot be stopped when they have grievances. “It is a serious issue which requires consideration. It indicates that the magnitude of the problem is serious,” it said.
Various similar petitions are pending before the high courts of Delhi, Calcutta, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Hyderabad, and Bombay civil court. Even the Calcutta High Court has sought a report from the Modi government on steps taken to “alleviate the sufferings of common people”. It has pulled up the Centre for not applying its “mind properly”, doing “no homework” and “changing procedure” everyday.