Demonetisation Was Valid, Says Supreme Court, 1 Judge Disagrees


In a landmark 4-1 majority judgment, the Supreme Court backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 note ban and said the decision couldn’t be faulted just because it was initiated by the Centre.

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The Supreme Court said the Centre must consult the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and there’s an “inbuilt safeguard”. There was six months of consultation between the two.

It doesn’t matter if the objective was achieved or not, the Supreme Court ruled. In matters of economic policy, there has to be great restraint. The court can’t replace the wisdom of the executive,” said Justice BR Gavai.

BV Nagarathna, in a dissenting opinion, called the Centre’s notes ban “vitiated and unlawful” and said it could have been done through Parliament.

Demonetisation on November 8 (2016) was “an exercise of power contrary to law”, said the judge, noting that the whole thing was done in 24 hours.

Justice Nagarathna wonders if the central bank had seen the problems associated with demonetisation.

According to her, documents and records submitted by the Center and the RBI include phrases like “As requested by the Central Government”.

Some 58 petitions challenged the Centre’s decision to ban 1,000 and 500 notes overnight. The move wiped out 10 lakh crore.

Millions of citizens were forced to queue up for cash because of the unconsidered decision.

Demonetisation can’t be thrown out on proportionality grounds, the Supreme Court said, adding that 52 days isn’t a long time.

The government argued that the court couldn’t decide a case if there’s no tangible relief. The center said it would be like “rewinding the clock” or “unscrambling an egg”. In addition, it said demonetisation was part of a broader strategy to fight fake money, terror financing, black money, and tax evasion.

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