In a breather to the Centre, the Supreme Court today agreed to hear on Decemeber 2 the pleas, including those pending in various High Courts, challenging the constitutional validity of its decision to demonetise currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 and the inconvenience faced by common people due to it. The bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur did not accept the submission of a battery of lawyers led by Kapil Sibal that the hearing of the petitions, pending in the apex court against demonetisation, be started on November 29 instead of December 2. "The issues are entirely different here from those (petitions pending in HCs)," Sibal said, adding that the constitutional validity of the demonetisation notification has been challenged besides the issue of hardships faced by common people, farmers and traders. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said besides the matters pending in the apex court, there are as many as 24 petitions, as of now, in various High Courts and let there be a common hearing on December 2 when it can be decided whether this court or the Delhi High Court would take them up. He also referred to the scheduled hearing on December 2 when the issue of transferring the HC cases either to the apex court or to one of the High Courts would come up. "We will examine both the aspects (of inconvenience and constitutional validity of notification). Come on Friday at 2.00 pm," the bench, also comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, said and asked the Centre to file an additional affidavit, if any, explaining the "schemes and steps" taken to ease the situation that has arisen due to demonetisation. As soon as the hearing began, many advocates started arguing simultaneously attempting to highlight issues raised in their respective PILs. Irked over the commotion, the court said, "Let there be some order in the courtroom. All of you are speaking at one time.
We will then adjourn the hearing by six weeks."
The bench then asked the lawyers appearing for petitioners to decide among themselves as to who will address the court.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the CPM which has filed the plea on the issue, said Sibal will lead them and he would only "supplement".
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court, has made clear that it will not go into the correctness of demonetisation policy as the apex court is already seized of it.
The packed SC courtroom witnessed an unpleasant scene when the lawyers in support and against the Centre's move began trading charges. Ashwini Upadhyay, a lawyer and spokesperson for BJP, said that 78 per cent of citizens use currency notes lower than Rs 100 and only 22 per cent have higher value bills. He contended a majority of people have supported the decision aimed against blackmoney. "The PILs opposing the demonetization have been filed by vested interests and people responsible for 2G, CWG and Coal scam are behind them. Thus they are not maintainable," he said, adding they were those who had propounded the "zero loss" theory in 2G and coal scam. However, lawyers including M L Sharma and S Muthukumar sought compensation for those who died allegedly due stress caused by demonetisation and claimed the ruling party has created a "havoc". The court intervened and asked the lawyers not to treat the court as a "public platform" to voice their views on demonetisation. Yesterday, the Centre had filed an affidavit in the apex court on demonetisation and said that the "bold move" would eradicate black money and slush funds operating since independence which created a "parallel economy" hitting the poor and the middle class. In its affidavit, the Centre had also said the decision, on which total secrecy was maintained, would now help in proper implementation of the ambitious 'Jan Dhan Yojana' under which around 22 crore bank accounts for poor people have been opened. Earlier, the apex court had refused the Centre's plea to stay the proceedings pending before various high courts, saying people may get "immediate relief" from them. It had sought response of all the petitioners, who have challenged the demonetisation move in different high courts, on a plea by the Centre seeking transfer of all these matters to either the apex court or one of the high courts. The Attorney General had told the court that the situation is "much better" and more than Rs six lakh crore has been deposited so far in the banks since the demonetisation move was announced and there is a big surge in digital money transaction.