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Clarify Legal Status Of Cryptocurrencies : Supreme Court To Centre

Mehal Jain
25 Feb 2022 8:18 AM GMT
Clarify Legal Status Of Cryptocurrencies : Supreme Court To Centre
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The Supreme Court on Friday made an oral remark that the Centre ought to clarify the legal status regarding cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and whether dealing in them is an offence.The comment, at the instance of Justice Surya Kant(who was in a bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud), came when Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, for the Enforcement Directorate, urged that the...

The Supreme Court on Friday made an oral remark that the Centre ought to clarify the legal status regarding cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and whether dealing in them is an offence.

The comment, at the instance of Justice Surya Kant(who was in a bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud), came when Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, for the Enforcement Directorate, urged that the GainBitcoin scam accused Ajay Bhardwaj is not cooperating in the investigation.

At this, Justice Surya Kant asked, "What do you mean 'not cooperating'?"

The ASG replied that multiple summons have been issued to the accused by the ED in connection with the probe. It may be noted that in August, 2019, the Supreme Court had granted anticipatory bail to the accused on the deposit of Rs. 1 crore on a petition filed by him, clarifying that no coercive steps may be taken against him. The ED has filed an IA seeking cancellation of the bail.

Justice Surya Kant then orally remarked, "We would like you, as the Union of India, to place on record the regime as to bitcoin and cryptocurrency?Is it still an offence?"

"We will do that. Direct Marketing guidelines are there, which they have challenged. This scam involves 80,000 bitcoins which have a value of 20,000 crore! FIRs are registered all across the country! The victims are running into thousands and thousands of people whose money has been taken! They are trying to create this ruse of guidelines and regime!", urged the ASG.

It may be noted that in the recent Budget Session, the Parliament passed the Finance Bill which seeks to impose tax on crypto-currency exchanges. However Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that taxing cryptocurrencies does not mean that it has been given legal recognition

As far as the present case is concerned, the bench headed by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud recorded that the ASG has stated that the petitioner has not cooperated in the course of the investigation and that having regard to the fact that there is an allegation of collection of 80,000 bitcoins valued at approximately 20,000 crores, the ad interim order granting stay of arrest may be vacated.

"We direct the petitioner to appear before the investigating officer in the directorate of enforcement to thereafter cooperate in the investigation as and when called upon to do so. The IO shall file a fresh status report before this court within four weeks indicating the progress of the investigation and whether there is cooperation on the part of the petitioner. Conditional on the petitioner cooperating in the investigation, the ad interim order restraining the arrest shall continue till the next date of listing", the bench directed on Friday.

Reportedly, Ajay Bhardwaj's brother, Amit Bhardwaj, the alleged mastermind behind the GainBitcoin scam, was arrested in March 2018 and later granted bail by the Supreme Courton April 3, 2019. Amit Bhardwaj had founded a slew of companies and is infamous for running GainBitcoin, an MLM scheme that promised 10% monthly returns on bitcoin investments.

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