The government on Friday told the Supreme Court that no more opportunity can be given for depositing scrapped `500 and `1,000 currency notes in banks.
The finance ministry, in its reply to the apex court, said 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 filed thorugh Gaurav Masaldan, director, ministry of finance.
According to the government, the petitioners have “no legal right to claim grace period” and the prayers are “equally misconceived”.
The response came on the Supreme Court’s query as to why the government and the RBI went back on its promise of extending the date of deposit of demonetised currency notes to March 31.
A batch of four petitions filed separately by three individuals and Bengaluru-based transport company Victory Logitrans had alleged that RBI’s refusal to accept old notes is a violation of a 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.
The petitions said that while the Prime Minister on November 8 last year announced the demonetisation of currency notes, a subsequent RBI notification allowed citizens to deposit them them beyond the cut-off date of December 31 till March 31, 2017.
The government, however, said that the November 8 notification permitted exchange and/or deposit of specified bank notes during a block period up to December 30 last year.
It “did not vest any person as a matter of right to seek exchange and or deposit of any specified bank notes after December 30. The use of the word ‘shall’ in the notification is not determinative of any such right in as much as it was only an enabling provision to enable the central government to meet any unforeseen or sudden contingencies that may arise during the period of demonetisation. Therefore, the use of the word ‘shall’ necessarily read as ‘may’ and it did not impose any legal obligation on the Central government,” the affidavit stated.
According to Masaldan, various malpractices were reported post de-monetisation including use of old demonetised notes for buying gold. “Between November 9 and January 10 alone, there were more than 1,100 raids/surveys conducted by the income tax department on various persons… As a result of the raids and other strict measures enforced, more than `610 crore cash including cash of `513 crore out of which `110 crore was in new currency and valuables were seized. The undisclosed income detected in the above actions was more than `5,400 crore.”
Such malpractices and irregularities had to be immediately arrested and plugged to achieve the stated objective of demonetisation. “Accordingly, it was decided as a matter of conscious decision and as a major economic step to bring in an Ordinance known as the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016 since the Parliament was not in session.”
It submitted that with the passing of the Ordinance viz the earlier November 8 notification “has ceased to be operational… there is no provision existing in law whatsoever, for exchange and or deposit of the specified bank notes in question for any person except in the case of Citizens exempted by the Ordinance itself”.