New Delhi, (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay, for now, the petitions against demonetisation pending before different High Courts and subordinate courts as it cautioned that if hardship continues, there may be riots.
Asking the government to ease the situation, the court observed if hardship continues “we may have riots” as “people have become frantic” through standing in queues for long hours.
“That only shows the magnitude of the problem. The problem is serious. You can’t shut them from coming to courts. People are frantic to get money. People are affected. We may have riots in the streets. Let them go (to the courts),” said a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Anil R. Dave as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi urged the court to stay all such proceeding in High Courts and subordinate courts.
The court said that government could not dispute that “there is suffering and difficulty.”
At the outset of the hearing, the bench asked how it is that swapping of demonetised currency notes with the new ones has been brought down from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000, even as it had asked the government to take steps to ease the hardship being faced by the people.
Adjourning the matter for November 25, the court asked the Attorney General to move transfer petitions, which the court will consider for transferring cases to Delhi.
The Narendra Modi government had on November 8 demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency note to “curb black money and corruption”.
Pointing that people were moving the courts because of they are suffering, the court observed: “We can’t shut them out from the court.”
“It is a serious matter, people should not suffer,” observed Chief Justice Thakur as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that government was monitoring the situation “day after day, hour after hour”.
He told the court that government had already issued directions for giving Rs. 50,000 to traders, farmers, Rs. 2.5 lakhs for weddings and so on.
As Rohatgi gave the details of two lakh ATMs, 1.25 lakh bank branches, and petrol pumps from where people could get money, senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the court that 75,000 ATMs were not functional and a large number of them are not calibrated to dispense the new currency notes.
Appearing for one of the petitioners, Sibal said that currency worth Rs 23 lakh crore is to be printed and currency worth Rs 14 lakh crore have been demonetised and there is no replacement. He said currency worth nine lakh crores was in circulation.
Describing Sibal’s statement as politically inspired, Attorney General urged the court “to go and see, the queues have become shorter”.
As Sibal defended his position, Rohatgi shot back: “I have seen your press conference”. Sibal is one of the senior spokesmen of the Congress.
During the course of the hearing, the bench inquired as to why currency notes of Rs 100 denomination were not being made available, Rohatgi told the court that currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination that have been demonetised formed 85 per cent of the money in circulation.