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22 Mar 2017

Apex court note ban poser to govt

TT, New Delhi, March 21: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to explain its abrupt decision to stop acceptance of the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes till the original deadline of March 31, 2017, by curtailing the period to December 30, 2016.
The court asked the government to file the explanation by April 11.
Hearing a batch of three PILs filed by some individuals, a bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar indicated that it would examine whether a December 30 ordinance curtailing the period was illegal. If it is so, the court said, it would ask the government to consider the plea of the petitioners to accept their demonetised notes if adequate reasons were given for not depositing the cash by December 30.
The bench, also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, however, said the authorities would be free to prosecute the petitioners if the court eventually finds that the government was justified in its decision to curtail the period. The original March 31, 2017, deadline was set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his November 8 televised address announcing the demonetisation decision.
"If we hold that you are not justified, then you should consider their plea. But if we feel you are justified, then you are free to prosecute them," CJI Khehar told attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre.
Rohatgi contended that the ordinance would prevail. "If the Prime Minister had made the announcement on TV that deposits can be done till March 31, but if subsequently the law says one can't do that, the law will prevail but not the Prime Minister's statement."
However, the CJI countered: "The law has overtaken the Prime Minister's speech without any notice to people. You cannot pre-judge people's inability to deposit without giving them any opportunity. You can't arbitrarily exercise the discretionary power by closing the window that you have initially given."
"You can reject their case if you find them misusing it. But you can't deny them their rights. You can't keep the people in the lurch"
Rohatgi said a large number of people were "misusing" the situation.
He told the court that petrol bunks in particular started depositing only Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. "As if there are no other currency notes in the country." At this, Justice Khehar said: "You may have discretion, but, it can't be an arbitrary exercise of power. Your submission is that you are the final (authority). We are not willing to accept it."

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