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Even though the matter was eventually adjourned to December 5, the Bombay High Court did witness some arguments made in the challenge filed by district co-operative banks against a notification issued by the RBI. Along with ASG Maninder Singh, the matter also saw senior counsel Rafiq Dada and VA Thorat making an appearance.
In the last hearing, the bench led by AS Oka had declined to hear the petitions, relying on the fact that the government had moved a transfer petition before the Supreme Court. Through the transfer petition, the government had sought the clubbing together of twelve different petitions relating to demonetisation. The petition also included an application to stay the proceedings before the various High Courts.
Yesterday, a bench led by CJI TS Thakur had issued notice in the matter but refused to grant any stay. However, the subsequent order uploaded on the Supreme Court website [pdf] does not specifically say that no stay has been granted. Turns out that the oral observations made by CJI Thakur did not find their way into the order.
Which is, more or less, what today’s entire proceedings were based on.
With Oka J repeatedly saying that “propriety” demanded the matter be deferred unless a clarification was issued, the eventual adjournment did not come as a surprise. And with ASG Singh categorically stating that he was not present before CJI Thakur’s bench in the transfer petition yesterday, and hence could not comment on the CJI’s oral observations, there was precious little that the bench could do.
The matter has now been kept for December 5, three days after the transfer petition will be heard by the apex court. What may also have tipped the balance was a clarification issued by the government today, one that ASG Singh handed over to the bench. As per ASG Singh, the clarification ought to do away with the perception that the notifications issued by the RBI and by the Union of India were at odds with each other.
The counsel for the banks though could not be faulted for lack of trying. And some of the claims made reflected the crisis in which district co-op banks have found themselves in. Senior counsel Thorat, appearing for the Sholapur co-op bank, argued that their deposits have touched 600 crore, yet they are unable to deposit the same since the RBI had disallowed district co-op banks from accepting old notes. Worse, with a severe lack of legal currency, the bank may not even be able to pay the 4% interest that it had guaranteed to provide.
For a few moments it even appeared that Oka J would be persuaded to hear the matter, but this was not to be. Observing that even though the bench had spent time studying the petitions, Oka J said that the court could not hear it unless the apex court clearly stated that no stay had been granted.
So, once again, the matter moves back to Bhagwan Das road.