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The Bench ignited hope among people for opening such a window to exchange demonetised currency for those who could not do so by December 30, 2016, or by March 31, due to changes in conditions for depositing the scrapped notes at banks.
“There can be a situation where a person has lost his/her money for no fault. Suppose a person was in jail during the period... We want to know as to why you chose to bar such persons,” the court said. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, initially said the policy was not individual-centric and later sought time to take instruction on the issue as to whether an opportunity, on a case-to-case basis, can be given to those who could not deposit the money due to valid reasons.
During a brief hearing, the Bench said if there is a person who has “valid reasons” for not depositing the notes, then he should be given an opportunity to explain as to why he failed to deposit the money and “he must be given a window”. It then gave illustrations like that of a person who could be ill or in jail during the period when the window was provided to exchange scrapped notes and asked the government whether such people can be forced to lose their money for no fault of theirs.
“You cannot take the money away if a person says that it was his failing that he could not deposit the money and justify that under no circumstance could he have deposited them,” the SC observed.
POINT, COUNTERPOINT* Noting the Centre cannot seek to deny its citizens of their property,SC said it is a serious issue if people with bonafide reasons are denied another chance* The Centre, in return, has said the rules are geared to allow exemptions only to a class of people, not individuals. However, it will consider the question of relief, if any can be permitted
The Centre has already filed an affidavit, saying the government was not going to open any window now to deposit old notes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 8 last year announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender.
The government had assured the people that banned 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, at the RBI branches after complying with certain formalities.