The Supreme Court today posed several pointed questions to the government during the hearing of petitions challenging demonetisation.
Apart from asking "how crores in new notes were being seized from various parts of the country when it could not pay even the promised Rs 24,000 a week to public", a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also expressed displeasure for not having any plan or fixed ratio for giving back in new notes after accepting crores worth of old notes as deposits.
On new note seizures government replied that several bank officials including managers were involved and they have been arrested.
At the outset CJI Thakur asked why public was being denied Rs 24,000 per week and how a lesser amount can be given without amending the notification.
The issue of District Cooperative Banks came when AG Mukul Rohatgi submitted that as per changed rules these banks are being allowed to deposit in RBI Rs 8000 crore they collected from public.
But Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram appearing for anti-demonetisation petitioners argued that main grievance of the DCCB banks were that they were not being allowed to accept deposits and lend which is the function of these banks.
ÇJI also questioned how these banks will benefit till the money they deposited in RBI in old notes reaches them back in new notes.
"There cannot be unpredictability.Why dont you have a policy...what is the time frame for it? CJI asked Rohatgi.
The hearing will continue after vacations.
Senior Advocate Chidambaram with facts and figures demonstrated the plight of one of the largest Co-operative banks operating with nil NPA. He argued that rural people are totally depended on cooperative banks and members mainly farmers are totally deprived of banking facilities.
Though Kapil Sibal requested for some relaxation for Govt Hospitals, pharmacies in Govt Hospitals, railway stations, milk booths, cremations and burial grounds, etc, the court was not inclined to pass any order, other than expressing displeasure.
Not happy with the pace of steps being taken to alleviate people's suffering, the court had on Friday asked the Centre why even a month after demonetisation, it was not even able to ensure that people got at least the Rs 24,000 they were allowed to withdraw a week from banks or ATMs.
"We could have said raise the weekly limit from Rs 24,000 to Rs 50,000. But then you say you don't have the notes and printing will take time. If you have agreed to Rs 24,000, at least ensure that people are given that. At least allow people to withdraw Rs 10,000. Can you do that or you need a judicial order?" CJI Thakur had asked AG Rohatgi.
In view of the flurry of petitions against the measure, nearly 30 were lined up by the court for hearing. The bench framed a list of 10 issues which it identified for a streamlined and systematic hearing.
These issues include challenge to the Constitutional validity of demonetisation; validity of all subsequent notifications; matters concerning inconvenience; whether demonetisation violated right to equality and right to freedom of speech and expression; restriction on withdrawal and its validity; manner in which notification is being implemented; whether power delegated to RBI by the Centre has been excessive; scope of judicial review; whether it was permissible to withdraw 86 per cent of currency notes in circulation without proper arrangement for replacement; and issues pertaining to leaving the district cooperative banks from post demonetisation process.
The court also sought the Centre's response on issues like whether district cooperative banks could be allowed to accept deposits in demonetised notes with stringent regulations.
The bench said though demonetisation has been carried with long-term beneficial aims, its immediate concern was to ease the inconvenience of the people and asked Rohatgi to apprise it on December 14 on issues relating to the same.
Strongly defending its decision to exclude District Central Cooperative Banks from post-demonetisation exercise of exchanging scrapped Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes for new ones and accepting deposits, Centre has told the Supreme Court that it was a “conscious decision” as their “capability to detect fake currency is low” due to “poor level of automation” and “low order professionalism among their staff”.
“DCCBs as institutions have low level of automation as also low order professionalism among their staff. Their capability to detect fake Indian currency notes is also low. These therefore have been some of the reasons which prompted the authorities to keep them off from exchanging the specified bank notes for public or accepting them for deposit to the credit of their customers accounts”, said the affidavit filed by the Centre
District Co-operative Banks (DCBs) of Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu also have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking a writ to strike down the notification of Reserve Bank of India and the Union Government dated November 8 and November 14 regarding demonetisation.
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