9 Nov 2022 8:05 AM GMT
The Attorney-General for India, R. Venkataramani, on Wednesday sought more time for the filing of a comprehensive affidavit in response to the batch of petitions assailing the 2016 high-value banknote demonetisation. The challenge is being heard by a Constitution Bench six years after a circular was passed on November 8, 2016, effectively rendering invalid 86% of India's legal tender....
The Attorney-General for India, R. Venkataramani, on Wednesday sought more time for the filing of a comprehensive affidavit in response to the batch of petitions assailing the 2016 high-value banknote demonetisation. The challenge is being heard by a Constitution Bench six years after a circular was passed on November 8, 2016, effectively rendering invalid 86% of India's legal tender.
The five-judge Bench comprises Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian, and B.V. Nagarathna. Justice Nagarathna expressed dissatisfaction with the adjournment request, saying –
"Normally, a Constitution Bench never adjourns like this. We never rise like this once we have started. It is very embarrassing for this court."
On October 12, Senior Advocate P. Chidambaram had highlighted the absence of a "comprehensive affidavit" filed either by the Union of India or the Reserve Bank of India, which were the architects of this controversial move, after which the bench directed the Centre and the RBI to give their responses.
On Wednesday, the Attorney-General, however, requested the Bench to grant him another week to finalise the affidavit, all the while profusely apologising for the delay. He said –
"We could not get the affidavit ready. We require a very short indulgence of about a week's time. The affidavit will be useful for all of us to proceed in some structured way. Otherwise, the course of action may be unnavigated. I will present it by Wednesday or Thursday…I am deeply sorry."
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan pointed out that such an adjournment went against the established practice of the court. He said –
"So far as I am aware, the practice of this Court, when a Constitution Bench sits, is not to ask for an adjournment. Everyone is aware of that. A Constitution Bench has the highest priority. Therefore, a request such as this is unusual. I am in an awkward position, and I do not know how to respond."
Divan further requested that arguments be allowed to be made on behalf of the petitioners, who had already been languishing in wait for a long time. He implored –
"Let us please open and complete our submissions. These are old matters, and the facts are undisputed. On a proper balance, this would be fair. Thereafter, they can take their week and respond. Let them take whatever stand they want to in the affidavit. We will not insist on an argument in response to their affidavit, except in our rejoinder, where we will deal with their submissions."
The Attorney-General interjected, saying that "this kind of submission" made by Divan was problematic. He went on to admit –
"All of us are aware that we do not make a request like this before the Constitution Bench. There are certain serious and sincere problems. I must be adequately equipped in addressing the court. Therefore, I have made this request."
Justice Nazeer pointed out that 4-weeks time was granted to the Union for filing the country – "The time that you have been granted cannot be said to be short or insufficient time."
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing on behalf of the Reserve Bank, also made his disagreement with Divan, with respect to his contention that the facts in the cases were undisputed, known. Gupta asserted –
"On November 6, another affidavit has been filed which has incorrect facts. Therefore, my learned friend is not right in saying that all the facts are admitted. We are working day and night to answer those allegations which have now come. As it is, this is a very large matter and most of the grounds which were argued on the first day are not even a part of any of the pleadings before this court. Despite that, we have made a list of all the matters which have been placed before you, and we are dealing with it comprehensively."
When asked for his views, Chidambaram told the bench –
"This is an embarrassing situation. I leave it to this court's wisdom."
After deliberations, the Bench decided to list the matter for hearing on November 24. Justice Nazeer said –
"We will fix it on the 24th. Although 25th is a miscellaneous day, we will continue hearing the matter on that day as well. It will not be a miscellaneous day for us."
Vivek Narayan Sharma v. Union Of India [WP (C) No. 906/2016] and other connected matters
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