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In a recent development, the Supreme Court of India has taken cognizance of a crucial matter pertaining to the urgent listing of a plea challenging the notifications issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regarding the exchange of ₹2,000 currency notes without the requirement of a requisition slip and ID proof. The apex court, on June 7, directed its Registry to furnish a report on this issue, highlighting the importance and urgency of the case.
Background and Petitioner’s Concerns
Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the petitioner, had approached the Supreme Court with a plea challenging the aforementioned notifications. This plea seeks to address the concerns regarding the exchange of ₹2,000 banknotes by individuals involved in illicit activities, such as Maoists, terrorists, and separatists, without the need to provide a requisition slip or ID proof, including Aadhaar cards. The petitioner argues that such practices pose a significant threat to national security.
Supreme Court’s Response and Urgent Hearing
A vacation Bench comprising justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal took up the matter after Mr Upadhyay sought an urgent hearing. On June 1, the Supreme Court declined to list the plea for an acute hearing during the summer vacation. However, considering the gravity of the issues raised and the urgency expressed by the petitioner, the court has now directed its Registry to provide a report on the urgent listing of the plea.
Importance of the Matter and Media Reports
During the hearing, Mr Upadhyay emphasized the significance of the issue at hand, pointing out that Maoists, terrorists, and separatists were reportedly taking advantage of the currency exchange process. Media reports have surfaced, suggesting that an estimated ₹80,000 crore worth of currency notes have already been exchanged under these circumstances. The court acknowledged the seriousness of the matter but refrained from drawing conclusions based solely on media reports, instead requesting the Registry’s report.
Court’s Observation and Seeking the Registry Report
The vacation Bench expressed its concern over the submission made by Mr Upadhyay, stating, “We cannot go by media reports. You mention on Friday; meanwhile, let us see the Registry report.” The court recognized the previous mention of the matter and questioned the need for its repetition. As the case awaits further action, the court has sought the Registry’s report to evaluate the urgency and address the concerns raised by the petitioner.
Urgency in Listing the Plea and Criminal Activities
Highlighting the urgency of the matter, the petitioner’s lawyer previously emphasized that criminals and terrorists were exchanging ₹2,000 banknotes without following the required procedures, including the submission of a requisition slip and ID proof. It has been alleged that an astonishing ₹50,000 crore has already been exchanged in banks within a short span of time. The delay in hearing the plea, according to the petitioner, may result in the conversion of all illicit black money into legitimate holdings within the banking system.
Petitioner’s Appeal and High Court Dismissal
Mr Upadhyay had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court’s dismissal of his Public Interest Litigation (PIL), challenging the notifications issued by the RBI and the State Bank of India. The Delhi High Court upheld the legality of these notifications, allowing the exchange of ₹2,000 banknotes without requiring any supporting documents. In response to the PIL, the RBI announced on May 19 that ₹2,000 notes would be withdrawn from circulation, with existing notes being either deposited in bank accounts or exchanged until September 30. However, the ₹2,000 denomination would still remain legal tender.
Exchange Procedure and Operational Convenience
To ensure operational convenience and avoid any disruptions to regular banking activities, the RBI outlined the process for exchanging ₹2,000 notes into banknotes of other denominations. This exchange could be carried out at any bank, with a limit of ₹20,000 at a time, starting from May 23. The objective behind this move was to facilitate a smooth transition while reducing the circulation of high-value currency notes.
The Supreme Court’s decision to seek a report from its Registry regarding the urgent listing of a plea challenging the RBI’s notifications on the exchange of ₹2,000 currency notes without requisition slips and ID proof underscores the significance of this matter. The court’s actions reflect a commitment to addressing the concerns raised by the petitioner, especially those related to national security. As the case progresses, it remains to be seen how the court will assess the urgency and take appropriate measures to safeguard the integrity of the currency exchange process.