"We are not interfering with it. But want you to ensure that inconvenience caused to the public is minimal. They shall not suffer" CJI Thakur to AG Mukul Rohatgi.
The Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the central government's decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes but sought an affidavit as to what urgent extra measures can be taken to put an end to the severe inconvenience people faced.
The bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur asked the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for Centre if steps like enhancing the withdrawal cap, asking more authorities to accept old currency till an extended date, more speedy replenishment of ATMs could be taken.
"We are not interfering. Only looking into if more measures can be taken to ease the situation. People should not suffer at any cost", the bench told AG seeking an affidavit by November 25.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal had appeared for the four petitioners (including two Delhi-based lawyers) in the PILs which sought quashing of the scheme on the grounds that it infringed citizens' right to life and trade among others.
Sibal argued that the centre did not have power under section 26(2) for blanket removal of currency notes of certain denomination but only to cancel a particular series which Rohatgi contested. "We are challenging the constitutional validity of the notification" Sibal argued but the bench refused to be much drawn into it.
Sibal also argued that public was severely inconvenienced and centre had no power to restrict amount of withdrawal of hard earned money as the banks were only "trustees of money and no power beyond that".
Comparing the step with surgical strikes, AG said of course there will be some pain during a surgery.
At this juncture CJI Thakur told Rohatgi : "Mr.Attorney, You are comparing it to surgical strikes. But Mr.Sibal says it is a carpet bombing".
AG told the court that already six notifications have been issued and the highest authority was constantly reviewing it.
The court had listed together for hearing as many as four pleas against the November 8 decison of the Narendra Modi government that these notes are no longer a legal tender.
Out of the four, two PILs have been filed by Delhi-based lawyers Vivek Narayan Sharma and Sangam Lal Pandey respectively.
Two other pleas have been filed by individuals, S Muthukumar and Adil Alvi, on the demonetisation issue.
All these pleas were filed on November 10 and the court had agreed to hear the pleas today.
The petitioners have alleged that the sudden decision has created chaos and harassment to public at large and urged that the notification of the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance be either quashed or deferred for some time.
The Centre has also filed a caveat in the registry saying it should be heard if the bench agrees to hear and pass orders on any such plea.
Sharma, in his plea, has termed the notification of DEA as dictatorial, claiming that it did not grant reasonable time to citizens for exchanging the specified bank notes to legitimate notes to avoid large scale mayhem, life threatening difficulties.
The plea has sought either quashing of the notification or a direction to the Centre for grant of reasonable time frame to citizens to exchange the demonetised currency notes to avoid difficulties being faced by the people.
The Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation, had declared that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will no longer be legal tender from November 8-9 midnight. He had said the Government has declared a decisive war against black money and corruption.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.