SC Demonetization Hearing Deferred Again As CJI Not Working Today

SC Demonetization Hearing Deferred Again As CJI Not Working Today

The detailed Supreme Court hearing on a batch of petitions and public interest litigations challenging demonetization continues to be a non-starter as Chief Justice T S Thakur is not sitting today.

This is the third adjournment in the case. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud informed about CJI Thakur’s non-availability at 10:30 AM and said the hearing has been rescheduled for December 9, Friday.

Observing that there was "too much chaos" in the demonetisation case hearing due to large number of petitions seeking different reliefs, the Chief Justice had last Friday said there was a need to categorize petitions to streamline the hearing and had fixed the hearing for 2PM today.

The bench had asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Centre to sit with Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal and make a list of the cases and identify the issue so that there could be a systematic hearing.

After district cooperative banks from Rajasthan and Maharashtra explained their unique plight post-demonetisation CJI Thakur said "their problems appear to be genuine.. cooperative banks are a distinct candidate it seems so..anyways we have to streamline the hearing..some clarity is required...Sibal you sit with the AG and please find some solution as to how we go about it..when every one starts speaking together nothing is possible".

At the outset Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that "every day new petitions are being filed. Every one coming with their own case. SC alone has 17 cases all over India there are 70 petitions now. Besides that there are District Cooperative bank matters. These banks are there in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Gujarat" "Its an all India issue and so it has to be clubbed and heard" he said.

The bench had deferred the hearing in petitions against demonetization to today after senior lawyer Kapil Sibal appearing for petitioners insisted that he wanted to challenge the constitutional validity of the measure and not just confine to problems faced by the people.

At the outset Sibal had said a larger bench should hear the challenge to the constitutional validity of the step taken but the government which was causing inconvenience to the public.

Sibal repeated that the RBI rules do not allow anybody to prevent anyone from withdrawing their rightful and legitimate money from the bank and the banks were only trustees of the money.

But Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi countered it saying a two judge bench was sufficient and the petitions itself should be dismissed on the basis of affidavit submitted by the centre detailing the steps taken to alleviate the sufferings of the people.

CJI Thakur then said that if Sibal was insisting that he is challenging the constitutional validity then the bench shall wait for all other petitions and keep it for hearing on Friday as ther cant be a "piece meal approach".

"If you are only on problems faced by people then we can hear Tuesday otherwise if you are challenging constitutional validity let it go to Friday as all petitioners from HCs will also be here" CJI told Sibal.

Sibal had initially 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.

Meanwhile 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”. The banks had challenged their exclusion before the SC.

“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 which was to be taken up for hearing today.

This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.