Demonetisation Anniversary: One year and fifty matters later

Demonetisation Anniversary: One year and fifty matters later

Aditya AK

On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Centre’s decision to do away with Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes, ostensibly to curb the proliferation of black money.

Exactly one year later, the jury is still out on whether the demonetisation move actually proved successful in any way, shape or form.

Pursuant to Modi’s announcement, citizens across the country found themselves inconvenienced by the move in various ways, whether it was having to wait in long queues to withdraw money from ATMs, facing a lack of access to technology to make digital payments, or being unable to withdraw cash from banks.

This, unsurprisingly, led to a slew of cases being filed in courts across the country. We had earlier reported on petitions being filed in as many as six high courts, but that number steadily rose as time passed.

The matters would eventually be transferred to the Supreme Court, to be tagged with the main matter titled Vivek Narayan Sharma v. Union of India. As many forty-nine cases have been tagged with this matter.

In December 2016, a Bench of then Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud referred the challenge to a five-judge Bench. However, the same has not been constituted till date, and the matters are currently before apex court Registrar Sanjay Parihar.

The matters last came up before the Registrar on September 15, when it was found that the Centre had not yet filed a counter-affidavit. It has now been listed before him for Friday, November 10.

Whenever the Constitution Bench does get constituted, it will determine the challenges on the basis of the following questions framed in the referral order:

  1. Whether the notification of November 8 is ultra vires Section 26(2) and Sections 7, 23, 24, 29 and 42 of the RBI Act.
  2. Whether the notification of November 8 and all subsequent notifications is contrary to Article 300(A) of the Constitution.
  3. Assuming that the notifications have been issued validly under S. 26(2), whether it falls foul of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g).
  4. Whether restrictions on withdrawal of money has any basis and whether it violates Articles 14, 19 and 21.
  5. Whether the implementation of the impugned notification(s) suffers from procedural and/or substantive unreasonableness and thereby violates Articles 14 and 19 and, if so, to what effect?
  6. In the event that Section 26(2) is held to permit demonetization, does it suffer from excessive delegation of legislative power thereby rendering it ultra vires the Constitution?
  7. What is the scope of judicial review in a matter touching fiscal/economic policy?
  8. Whether a petition by political party on the issue is maintainable under Article 32.
  9. Whether District Co-operative Banks have been discriminated against by excluding them from accepting deposits, exchanging old notes and denying withdrawal of money.

A number of questions surrounding the future of these challenges arise: When will the Constitution Bench take up the matter? Will the Bench take action against the government for the inconvenience caused by the demonetisation scheme, at little or no benefit to the people? Will the matters be considered infructuous now that the dust has settled?

The simple answer is that we will have to wait and watch. At least now, one year and fifty petitions later, the ATM lines are shorter.

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Read about the demonetisation petitions filed by or on behalf of co-operative banks here.

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