The Supreme Court on Friday said that its order seeking the prompt replies from the Centre and the RBI on a plea against alleged tweaking of rules on exchange of demonetised currency was intended to make them “alive to the situation".
The apex court, which had issued notices to the Centre and the federal bank on March 6, was responding to a plea that a very short time period had been given to them to respond to the petition.
“We did not intend to do anything. The intention was to make you alive to the situation,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said and granted time till March 21.
However, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared after commencement of the hearing, said the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) do not wish to file the reply and he was willing to argue the matter today itself.
“The only thing he (petitioner) is saying is that there was a window which was there in the first decision. He is saying the window was now closed in the Ordinance,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, told Rohatgi.
The bench asked the Attorney General to peruse its earlier order and said the issue is very clear as there is “no left, no right and no centre. Everything is in black and white”.
Earlier, the apex court had sought the responses of the Centre and the RBI as to why demonetised notes were not accepted till March 31 as was promised.
The Prime Minister's address to the nation on the evening of November 8 last year on demonetisation and subsequent notification of the federal bank that devalued currency notes can be exchanged at RBI offices even up to March 31, 2017 were valid assurances which stood breached by the ordinance, the counsel for petitioner, Sudha Mishra, had said.
The plea has alleged that the Prime Minister and the RBI had assured the people at large that demonetised currency notes can be exchanged at banks, post offices and RBI branches till December 30, 2016 and if people are unable to deposit them by that day then they can do so till March 31, 2017 at RBI branches after complying with some formalities.
The petitioner has referred to the Specified Bank Notes
Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance and said it had breached the assurance.
The Ordinance said that only those who were abroad, the armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who can give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the cancelled notes at banks, can deposit the demonetised currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes till March 31 this year after the deadline expired on December 30, 2016.
The Centre had come out with the Ordinance making possession of a large number of scrapped notes a penal offence that will attract monetary fine.
The Ordinance also provided for amending the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act to provide legislative support for extinguishing the demonetised banknotes that are not returned.
While the high-denomination currency ceased to be a legal tender from midnight of November 8, 2016, a mere notification was thought to be not enough to end the central bank's liability and avoiding future litigations.
Of the Rs 15.4 lakh crore worth of currency that was scrapped, about Rs 14 lakh crore has been deposited in banks or exchanged till December 28.
(With inputs from PTI)