Can’t give more time to deposit old notes, it defeats purpose of demonetisation: Centre to SC

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The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday it cannot give more time to deposit old currency notes, refusing any breather to those who could not deposit old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by the December 30, 2016 deadline.

The Union finance ministry told the top court that such an opportunity will defeat the purpose of demonetisation, which the government said was aimed at eliminating black money.

“That it is most respectfully submitted that 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 SBNs would have had sufficient time and opportunity to carefully plan the reasons and excuses for not depositing the SBNs within the permitted period,” read a government affidavit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government recalled 500- and 1,000-rupee notes last November, wiping out 86% of the money in circulation in a cash-driven economy. Modi said the exercise was a war against black money and corruption.

But the sudden decision led to chaos and confusion, with people queuing up outside banks to deposit their old notes. The Opposition attacked the government for alleged mismanagement and harassing the people.

“Any number of benami transactions and user proxies for the purpose of producing and depositing SBNs would then arise which the departments would have great difficulty in deciding any genuine case from the numerous bogus ones,” a government affidavit stated.

The document was filed after the top court asked the government to open another window for those who had legitimate reasons for not depositing the old notes before the deadline.

The top court is hearing petitions filed by those who were denied permission by the Reserve Bank of India to deposit their money after the deadline expired.

But according to the petitioners, the Prime Minister had in his speech on November 8, 2016 assured that old currency would be accepted at select RBI outlets till March 31, 2017.

In the last hearing, the Chief Justice of India had asked the government to consider giving some more time to people who were unable to visit banks for depositing money due to genuine reasons. It had warned the government against issuing orders if it did not do so.

“What if someone is terminally ill and could not deposit the money. If someone has a genuine reason, you cannot deny him the opportunity to deposit the money. You cannot be allowed to deprive a person of his money,” a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar had told solicitor general Ranjit Kumar.