"People are frantic..from newspaper reports we know the inconvenience they face.. public is in some difficulty... Please dont dispute it." CJI Thakur to AG Mukul Rohatgi.
The Supreme Court today said public seemed to be frantic due to the currency crunch following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and asked centre to take all measures to alleviate the sufferings of people.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also questioned the need to reduce the old notes exchange limit from 4,500 to Rs 2000. But was later satisfied by the reasoning given by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for Centre.
"People are frantic..from newspaper reports we know the inconvenience.. the difficulty faced by public. Please dont dispute it. We also get to know that the old currency exchange limit you have reduced to 2000 from 4,500..we had asked you to give them relief but you have squeezed them further. Don"t you have sufficient notes? Difficulty is in the printing part? " CJI Thakur asked Rohatgi.
The AG said difficulty was not just printing part but movement of notes to banks and post offices ..its transportation and calibration of ATMs..."
Detailing latest measures taken, Rohatgi said manifold enhancement of withdrawal limit was being allowed for marriages and farmers and also a measure has been started where people can swipe their cards at petrol pumps and withdraw Rs 2000.
Questioning government's preparedness, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who is appearing for petitioners against demonetisation said " 23 crore notes are required that is the demand..the government does not have the ways and means to print them"
"47 PEOPLE DEAD"
"What lies inside ATMs and banks are people's legitimate money and they struggle to get it. Under what law can they be stopped from withdrawing thier own money? Banks are just trustees of the money..situation is serious...cash economy is being freezed...people unable to buy anything...only 75,000 out of 2 lakh ATMs working"
"People in remote areas of the country..hills North East etc dont have ATMs no banks" Sibal claimed.
Sibal also claimed there were 47 deaths related to demonetisation
Rohatgi denied all of Sibals allegations saying they were "politically motivated".
The bench then asked both Sibal and Rohatgi to put all their allegation in an affidavit with all supporting data and file it by November 25 when the court will continue hearing on the main petition challenging demonetisation.
DELHI HC MAY HEAR ALL PILS
Responding to AG's plea in a separate application to restrain all HCs from entertaining PILs on the issue as that will create "chaos and confusion", the bench said it is considering issuing an order to transfer all petitions to Delhi High Court.
“The supreme court is already examining the issues and passing orders and therefore the high courts and lower courts needed to be restrained from hearing pleas to prevent confusion”, the AG said adding such a step was taken in 2G and coal scam matters.
AG said PILs on the issue was pending in Mumbai, Andhra, Karnataka, Chennai and Kerala.
But CJI Thakur initially said "we cannot shut out people from approaching high courts also and HCs are more aware of magnitude of problem in each state"
But later the court said it shall consider transferring all matters to Delhi HC and a decision in this regard will be taken on November 25.
On November 15 the Supreme Court 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 had 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.
Read the order here.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.