2016 Demonetisation | Supreme Court Refuses To Consider Individual Grievances, Allows Petitioners To Make Representations Before Centre
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to issue directions in individual applications emanating from alleged hardships faced due to the decision of the Union Government to demonetise high-value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. A division bench of Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath, while declining relief to the aggrieved petitioners, clarified that they would be at liberty to submit...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to issue directions in individual applications emanating from alleged hardships faced due to the decision of the Union Government to demonetise high-value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. A division bench of Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath, while declining relief to the aggrieved petitioners, clarified that they would be at liberty to submit their representations to the central government, which would have to be disposed of within 12 weeks.
The bench pronounced:
“The petitioners may have genuine grievances, but in view of the upholding of the enactment, no relief could be granted by this court. However, if the petitioners so desired, they would be at liberty to make a representation to the Union of India to consider their individual grievances. If such representations are made, they would have to be considered and decided within 12 weeks.”
This direction was passed even as the counsel for the petitioners vehemently argued for the top court to consider the applications individually. Advocate Prashant Bhushan exclaimed, “Why should such people be made to suffer?” He was appearing on behalf of a bereaved wife who sought to exchange her deceased husband’s savings, which she discovered only after the expiry of the window for exchanging old notes.
Justice Gavai firmly said, “The Constitution Bench has upheld the law. Genuine hardships may be caused, but merely that cannot be a ground for this court to interfere. These requests are for the government to examine.” Refusing to be swayed, the bench finally said that after the judgement of the Constitution Bench, it was not permissible for them to exercise their jurisdiction under Article 142 to issue directions in individual cases permitting the demonetised currency in possession of the petitioners to be exchanged with valid currency. However, at the behest of the petitioners, it added an important caveat allowing the applicants to approach the high courts in the event that they were unhappy with the centre’s ruling with respect to their applications. Justice Gavai said:
“In the event that any of the persons are not satisfied with the orders passed by the Union of India in their individual cases, they would always be at liberty to bring a respective challenge before the jurisdictional high court.”
This decision comes almost three months after the top court, on the first working day of the new year, upheld the validity of the union government’s controversial decision by a 4:1 majority. The Constitution Bench hearing a batch of 58 petitions challenging the November 8 circular which effectively pulled out 86% of the currency in circulation overnight, comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian, and BV Nagarathna. While the majority held both the centre’s notification and the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 that was subsequently promulgated to be valid, Justice Nagarathna was the lone voice of dissent on the bench. She said although demonetisation was well-intentioned, it had to be declared unlawful on purely legal grounds.
Vivek Narayan Sharma v. Union Of India | WP (C) No. 906/2016 and other connected matters