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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Whether the limit on withdrawal of cash from the funds deposited in bank accounts has no basis in law and violates Articles 14,19 and 21; 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?


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                      WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No.906/2016

Vivek Narayan Sharma                               …Petitioner(s)


Union of India                                           Respondent(s)

                   W.P.(C) Nos.908/2016,913/2016,916/2016,
        WP© D.No.37946/2016, W.P.(C) No.929/2016, W.P.(C)No.930/2016,
                  943/2016,W.P.(Crl.) No.162/2016, W.P.(C)
 2022/2016,W.P.(C)No.971/2016,972/2016, SLP© No.35356/2016,  T.P.(C)No.2030-
 2038/2016, W.P.(C)No.978/2016, W.P.(C)D.No.40114/2016,W.P.(C) No.944/2016,
T.P.(C)No.1958-1967/2016   &    T.P.(C)No.1982-1996/2016,    W.P.(C)    Nos.
1006/2016,  1008/2016,  1009/2016,  1010/2016,  1011/2016  and  SLP(C)   No.

                                  O R D E R

      Writ Petitions are admitted.

      Issue notice on the Writ Petitions, special leave petitions and  other
applications. The respondents may file reply  affidavit  within  six  weeks.
Rejoinder, if any, within three weeks thereafter.

We have heard the learned counsel for the parties at  some  length.  In  our
opinion, the following important questions fall  for  our  consideration  in
this batch of petitions:

Whether the notification dated 8th November  2016  is  ultra  vires  Section
26(2) and Sections 7,17,23,24,29 and 42 of the Reserve Bank  of  India  Act,

Does the notification contravene the provisions of  Article  300(A)  of  the

Assuming that the notification has been validly  issued  under  the  Reserve
Bank of India Act, 1934 whether it is ultra vires Articles 14 and 19 of  the

Whether the limit on withdrawal of cash from the  funds  deposited  in  bank
accounts has no basis in law and violates Articles 14,19 and 21;

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?

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;

What is the scope of judicial review  in  matters  relating  to  fiscal  and
economic policy of the Government;

Whether  a  petition  by  a  political  party  on  the  issues   raised   is
maintainable under Article 32; and

Whether District Co-operative  Banks  have  been  discriminated  against  by
excluding them from accepting deposits and exchanging demonetized notes.

Keeping  in  view  the  general  public  importance  and  the  far  reaching
implications which the answers to the questions may  have,  we  consider  it
proper to direct that the matters be placed before the larger Bench of  five
Judges  for  an  authoritative  pronouncement.          The  Registry  shall
accordingly  place  the  papers  before  Hon’ble  the  Chief   Justice   for
constituting an appropriate Bench.

      We may now advert to the issues which are of  immediate  concern.  The
first issue is about the restriction  placed  on  the  District  Cooperative
Banks to accept deposits or exchange of  demonetized  currency  of  Rs.500/-
and Rs.1000/-. Two broad aspects have been presented before  us.  The  first
is about the complete exclusion  of  the  District  Cooperative  Banks  from
accepting deposits or exchanging demonetized notes. The second is about  the
avoidable financial stress on the  District  Cooperative  Banks  because  of
freezing  the  deposited  demonetized  notes  received   by   the   District
Cooperative Banks between 11th and 14th November 2016, which  is  stated  to
be    around    Rs.8000/-Crore    (Rupees     Eight     Thousand     Crore).

The first point  whether  the  decision  of  the  Authority  to  forbid  the
District  Cooperative  Banks  from   accepting   deposits   and   exchanging
demonetized notes, may require detailed hearing. It is only upon  acceptance
of challenge  to  that  decision,  that  the  bar  placed  on  the  District
Cooperative Banks can be lifted. We are not inclined to suspend that bar  as
an interim measure.  This is especially when the decision is the outcome  of
financial policy which the respondents claim to have adopted  on  the  basis
of experience.  In particular, an apprehension has been expressed about  the
possibility of  demonetized  notes  being  converted  or  exchanged  without
proper audit, control or supervision.  The District  Cooperative  Banks,  it
has been urged, are not directly under the control of the  Reserve  Bank  of
India but within the purview of NABARD. The dispensation provided by  NABARD
is, according to the Attorney General, not in  conformity  with  the  strict
regime provided under the provisions of Banking  Regulation  Act,  1949  and
the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

      Reverting to the second aspect, of District  Cooperative  Banks  being
precluded from utilizing the demonetized notes deposited with  them  between
11th to 14th November 2016 (when it was so permitted by the Reserve bank  of
India), the learned Attorney  General  has  invited  our  attention  to  the
written instructions received  by  him  from  the  Under  Secretary  to  the
Government of India dated 14th December 2016.  The relevant extract  of  the
said letter reads thus:

    “In this regard, it is  to  inform  that  as  regards  the  deposits  of
Specified Bank Notes (SBNs) collected by  DCCBs,  the  RBI  has  recommended
that the SBNs collected by the DCCBs between 10th  and  14th  November  2016
may be exchanged with their linked currency chests after  a  100%  audit  of
the veracity of the KYC documents of the SBN depositing  customers  of  DCCB
is conducted by NABARD, the supervisor and to the extent  of  such  verified
SBNs only.  For SBNs deposited  by  Primary  Agricultural  Credit  Societies
(PACS) also, similar 100% audit of the KYC documents of the members  of  the
PACS should be conducted by NABARD and to the extent of such  verified  SBNs
only, exchange value will be given by the linked currency chest.  In  either
case, the linked currency chest will subject those  SBNs  to  usual  checks,
especially relating to finding out FICN.”

For that purpose, suitable Notification  can  be  issued  by  the  Competent
Authority within two days. We commend to the Competent Authority to  do  so.

Learned counsel for the District Cooperative Banks, however, submitted  that
the Reserve Bank of India must assure that the entire amount offered by  the
District Cooperative Banks for exchange after due verification in  the  form
of demonetized notes, will be duly replaced by commensurate amount of  legal
tender  notes   contemporaneously.   The   learned   Attorney   General   on
instructions submitted that the policy of replacement of legal tender  notes
as applicable to Public Sector Banks and other Banks will  be  applied  even
in the case of  District  Cooperative  Banks  for  exchange  of  demonetized
currency with the legal tender currency. We accept the  assurance  given  by
the learned Attorney General in this behalf.

      The  other  broad  point  was  about  extending  the  time  limit  for
exemption for use of demonetized currency notes of  Rs.500/-  and  Rs.1000/-
at specified counters as per  the  relevant  Notifications  issued  in  that
behalf by the Reserve Bank of India. It was  contended  that  the  exemption
period provided in the concerned notification is expiring.  Hence,  it  will
not be possible to deposit  the  demonetized  notes  at  specified  counters
thereafter, even  in  case  of  emergency  situation  like  hospitalization,
travel by Railway or Air etc. In our opinion, whether the  exemption  period
should be extended or  not  must  be  best  left  to  the  judgment  of  the
Government of the day with a hope that the  Government  will  be  responsive
and sensitive to the problems encountered by the  common  man.  Accordingly,
we decline to issue any interim direction to the Government  in  the  matter
of extending the period of exemption and leave it open to the Government  to
take appropriate decision in that behalf, as may be advised.

      The other serious grievance made  by  the  petitioners  is  about  the
denial of right to withdraw the prescribed amount of  Rs.24,000/-  per  week
per account holder, in spite of Notification issued by the Reserve  Bank  of
India permitting such withdrawal. It was submitted that  if  the  Government
has issued such Notification after  due  consideration,  it  is  obliged  to
ensure that its commitment made under the said Notification  is  implemented
without  any  exception.  The  ground  reality,  however,  contends  learned
counsel, is that the Banks are refusing to pay full  amount  of  Rs.24,000/-
per account holder per week on the  ground  of  non-availability  of  enough
volume of legal tender currency. According to the learned Attorney  General,
the Government has already made it amply clear that it would take around  50
days time to streamline the cash flow. That period is still  not  exhausted.
He submits that as of now the Reserve Bank of India has been able to  infuse
around Rs.5,00,000/-Crore (Five Lakh Crore) of the new  legal  tender  notes
in the form of Rs.500/- and Rs.2,000/-. That  is  almost  over  40%  of  the
amount of demonetized notes already deposited with the Banks.  Further,  the
Authorities are working to the best of their ability to  defuse  the  crisis
of cash flow situation by printing new notes. It is further  submitted  that
for the nature of decision taken by the Government -  to unearth  the  black
money or unaccounted money and to dry up the  terror  fund  and  defeat  the
attempt of circulation of large  scale  counterfeit   currency,  maintaining
complete secrecy of such a decision was imperative.  For  that  reason,  new
currency notes could not be printed well in advance.  He  submits  that  the
old demonetized notes will be replaced by new  legal  tender  notes  in  the
form of Rs.500/- and Rs.2000/- progressively in right  earnest.  Considering
the stand taken by the learned Attorney  General,  we  may  commend  to  the
Authorities to  fulfill  their  commitment  made  in  terms  of  the  stated
Notification permitting withdrawal of Rs.24,000/- per account holder of  the
Bank per week to the extent possible and review that  decision  periodically
and take necessary corrective measures in that behalf.

      In our opinion, besides  the  observations  made  hitherto,  no  other
direction can be given at this stage by way of an interim relief.

      That takes us to the Transfer Petitions filed by the  Union  of  India
for withdrawing all Writ Petitions/proceedings pending in the  various  High
Courts across the country and to  hear  those  cases  along  with  the  Writ
Petitions pending in this Court. In  our  opinion,  it  would  be  just  and
proper to withdraw all the Writ Petitions/proceedings pending  in  different
High Courts across the country and to be heard by this Court along with  the
Writ Petitions which are already pending  in  this  Court  raising  same  or
similar issues, to avoid multiplicity of hearing and  conflicting  decisions
on the same subject matter. Accordingly, we issue notice in  the  respective
Transfer Petitions and  by  way  of  interim  direction,  stay  the  further
proceedings of the Writ Petitions/proceedings in the concerned  High  Court.
                                             We further direct that  if  any
other Writ Petitions/proceedings are pending  in  any  High  Court,  further
hearing of those matters shall also remain stayed in terms  of  this  order.
                 We further direct that  no  other  Court  shall  entertain,
hear or decide any Writ Petition/proceedings on the issue or in relation  to
or arising from the decision of the Government of India  to  demonetize  the
old notes of Rs.500/-  and  Rs.1000/-,  as  the  entire  issue  in  relation
thereto  is  pending  consideration  before  this  Court  in   the   present

      We make it clear that petitioners before  the  High  Court(s)  or  any
other Court in India in respect of proceedings  already  instituted  on  the
subject matter under consideration  before  this  Court,  will  be  free  to
intervene in the Writ Petitions pending consideration before this  Court  on
the subject matter of demonetization of old currency notes of  Rs.500/-  and
Rs.1000/-, if so advised.

The Registry shall place the matter before the  Chief  Justice  for  further



      New Delhi,
        Dated: 16th December, 2016

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