The Centre today told the Supreme Court that no more grace period will be granted for depositing the scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, saying the very object of demonetisation and elimination of black money will be defeated if a fresh window is given.
The Centre was responding to the July 4 directive by a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar asking it to consider granting a window to those who have not been able to exchange the scrapped notes for genuine reasons. The apex court had said that people should not lose their own money for no fault of theirs.
"The very object of demonetisation and elimination of black money will be defeated if a window is opened for a further period as the persons in possession of the specified bank notes (scrapped notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500) would have had sufficient time and opportunity to carefully plan the reasons and excuses for not depositing the SBNs within the permitted period that is before December 30, 2016," the Ministry of Finance said in its affidavit.
The government said it has taken a "conscious decision" that no necessity or any justifiable reason exists either in law or on facts to invoke its power under The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 to extend the period for exchanging the scrapped currency.
The affidavit said that none of the petitioners have given any valid ground as to why they could not deposit the scrapped notes through his or her authorised third person.
Justifying its decision not to give any further window, the affidavit said, "The period thus available for every one to exchange and or deposit the specified bank notes was spread over 51 days (except for closed holidays) unlike the earlier demonetisation drive carried out in the year 1978, when it was restricted to six days only."
It said that "the period November 9, 2016 to December 30, 2016 was fairly a very long period during which any one can either himself or through his authorised agent/third person could have deposited/exchanged the specified bank notes subject to following the prescribed norms."
"In other words, what was permitted was exchange and or deposit of specified bank notes during a block period a period up to and including December 30, 2016 either in person or through authorised third person," it said.
The Centre said that the Ministry of Home Affairs had in July reported that as per intelligence agencies, there were reports of large scale misuse of the window for exchange of the old currency notes.
"Seizure of cash during the month of November and December 2016 was to the tune of Rs 147.9 crore and Rs 306.897 crore and seizure of gold for the month of November and December 2016 was 69.1 kg and 234.267 kg respectively," it said.
The affidavit further said that large quantities of new notes were also seized indicating exchange of old currency cash with new currency circumventing the rules.
"The CBI has informed that they have registered 63 cases relating to irregularities committed during post- demonetisation period involving 57 regular cases and 6 preliminary enquiries from November 25, 2016 to April 30, 2017. The cases allegedly involve total amount of Rs 395.19 crore," it said.
The apex court is hearing a batch of petitions, including one filed by Sudha Mishra seeking a direction to authorities to allow her to deposit demonetised notes as she could not do so during the period specified by the Centre and the RBI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 8 last year announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would no longer be a legal tender from the next day.
The government had assured the people that demonetised currency notes could be exchanged at banks, post offices and RBI branches till December 30, 2016. If people were unable to deposit them by that day, they could do so till March 31, 2017 at RBI branches after complying with certain formalities.
Earlier, the apex court on March 6 had issued notices to the Centre and RBI on the petitions alleging tweaking of rules on exchanging demonetised currency notes.
The Prime Minister's address to the nation on the evening of November 8 last year on demonetisation and subsequent notifications of the federal bank that the devalued currency notes can be exchanged at RBI offices even up to March 31, 2017 were valid assurances which stood breached by the ordinance, the counsel for petitioner Sudha Mishra had said.
One of the pleas has also referred to the Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance and said the government had breached the assurance.
However, the Ordinance, issued on December 30 last, had specified that only those who were abroad or armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who could give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the cancelled notes at banks, could deposit the demonetised currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes till March 31.
The deadline for the general public to deposit the scrapped currency in bank or post office accounts expired on December 30, 2016.
(Feature Image Source: PTI)