In 4:1 majority verdict, Supreme Court finds no flaw in demonetisation process 

Published - January 02, 2023 09:17 pm IST

Media personnel outside the Supreme Court on the day of pronouncement of its judgement on a batch of pleas challenging the Central Government’s 2016 decision to demonetise, in New Delhi on January 2, 2023.

Media personnel outside the Supreme Court on the day of pronouncement of its judgement on a batch of pleas challenging the Central Government’s 2016 decision to demonetise, in New Delhi on January 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Four judges on a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on January 2 found no flaw in the process adopted by the government to demonetise ₹500 and ₹ 1000 currency notes through a gazette notification on November 8, 2016.

The sole woman judge on the Bench, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, however, disagreed with the majority, saying the demonetisation exercise, undertaken on the government’s initiative and based on a mere notification in the official gazette instead of a plenary legislation in the Parliament, was plainly unlawful and vitiated.

Justice Nagarathna said there was no “meaningful application of mind” by the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to the government’s initiative for withdrawing ₹500 and ₹ 1000 notes, which formed 86% of the currency in circulation at the time causing severe financial crunch and socio-economic despair.

Justice B.R. Gavai, delivering the majority judgment of the Bench, supported by Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian, said the court can exercise only a limited judicial review in matters of economic policy. It cannot supplant the views of the experts. The records do not show any flaw in the use of decision-making powers of the government. There was a prior consultation between the government and the RBI dating back six months prior to November 8, 2016.

Justice Gavai concluded that the purpose of the demonetisation was proper. There was a reasonable nexus between the objectives of clamping down on black money, terror funding, counterfeiting and the act of demonetisation. The action of demonetisation and time period given for currency exchange were not hit by the doctrine of proportionality.

In 1978, only three days and a further extension of five days were given to exchange old notes for new. On the other hand, in 2016, 52 days were given to the public.

The majority judgment said the RBI did not have any independent powers to extend the time period. The government, under Section 26(2) of the RBI Act, had the power to demonetise all series of bank notes and it was not limited to one series alone. There was no excessive delegation of power by which the government kick-started the demonetisation exercise through a notification in November 2016.

Dissenting, Justice Nagarathna said the court’s judicial review was indeed limited as far as checking the merits of an economic policy, but the court could examine the correctness of the process of demonetisation policy to see whether or not it violated the constitutional rights of citizens.

The policy of demonetisation should originate from the Central Board of the RBI and not the government, Justice Nagarathna said. Central government can initiate demonetisation through a plenary legislation of the Parliament, which is the “nation in miniature”.

“Without the Parliament, democracy will not thrive,” Justice Nagarathna said.

Demonetisation initiated by the government had great ramifications. It should have been extensively debated in the Parliament. If the Parliament was not in session at the time, the government should have promulgated a prior ordinance.

The views of the Parliament were critical, especially when demonetisation hit the public at large. The action of demonetisation in 2016 on the basis of a mere notification was contrary to the law and the subsequent Act was also, thereby, unlawful.

Justice Nagarathna’s view contrasted with that of others on the Bench when she concluded that there was no independent application of mind by the central bank.

The entire exercise was carried out in 24 hours between November 7 and November 8, 2016, Justice Nagarathna pointed out.

Only an opinion of the Central Board was sought after the government took the decision to demonetise 86% of the currency leading to severe financial crunch. The RBI Act did not allow the demonetisation of all series of bank notes in circulation.

Justice Nagarathna said she was not questioning the object of demonetisation. It may have been “noble and well-intentioned”, but the process undertaken was bad in law.

Nothing however can be done to restore the situation to status quo ante, but the judgment could act prospectively, Justice Nagarathna said in her separate opinion.

The Constitution Bench’s judgment came after hearing over 50 petitions challenging the demonetisation exercise of the government undertaken in November 2016.

The court had reserved the case for judgment on December 7.

Delhi hit and run case: All accused sent to police custody for three days; medical board to conduct autopsy, say police

 A Delhi court on January 2, 2023 remanded in police custody for three days the five accused booked for the death of woman after her scooty was allegedly hit by a car and dragged under the car for over an hour.

After hearing the application seeking five days of custodial interrogation, Metropolitan Magistrate Ajay Singh Parihar sent the five men to police custody for three days.

The 20-year-old woman had died in outer Delhi’s Sultanpuri on January 1, 2023 and the accused have been booked on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, causing death by negligence and criminal conspiracy, police said.

During the hearing, police told the court the probe was in the initial stages and custodial interrogation of the accused was required for taking it forward. The Sultanpuri police station has registered an FIR against Deepak Khanna (26), Amit Khanna (25), Krishan (27), Mithun (26) and Manoj Mittal.

Sagar Preet Hooda, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) said a medical board has been constituted to conduct the autopsy. “Based on the post-mortem report, fresh charges could be added against the five accused arrested in connection with the case,” he said at a press conference.

“The accused will be taken to the scene of the crime to verify their version of events. The timeline of events will be established on the basis of the CCTV footage and digital evidence,” Hooda told reporters. “The forensic examination of the vehicle is also being done,” he said.

Scores of protesters gathered outside the Sultanpuri Police Station on Monday and blocked traffic demanding punishment for those responsible for the woman’s death. A person, who claimed to be an eyewitness to the incident, alleged the woman’s body was dragged for over one-and-half hours.

A video purportedly showing the woman’s body without clothes and broken legs has also surfaced on social media. The footage also led to claims that the victim was raped and killed, but police said it was an accident.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses a press conference in New Delhi on January 2, 2023.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses a press conference in New Delhi on January 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed it the “rarest of rare crime” and demanded the strictest punishment for those behind the incident, while L-G V.K. Saxena said his head hung in shame over the “inhuman” crime.

“Spoke to Hon’ble L-G on Kanjhawala incident. Requested him to take exemplary action against culprits, strictest sections of IPC shud be slapped against them. No leniency should be shown even if they have high political connections. He assured that he will take strong action,” Kejriwal tweeted.

Aam Aadmi Party leaders on Monday staged a protest outside the residence of L-G Saxena and demanded his resignation over the incident. Around 200 AAP leaders and workers, including MLAs Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Durgesh Pathak, gathered outside Raj Niwas at Civil Lines and raised slogans. Security around the L-G’s residence has been beefed up with barricades being put up and water canons deployed in the area.

Bhardwaj alleged that one of the accused in the case, Manoj Mittal, is a BJP leader and a hoarding bearing his picture hangs outside the local police station where he and his other friends are currently lodged.

The Delhi BJP’s media cell head Harish Khurana, in his turn, said the police have already arrested the accused and the guilty should be given the strictest punishment regardless of the party they belong to.

At the protest in outer Delhi’s Sultanpuri, an agitator said, “At the time of the incident, people were wearing five layers of clothes to beat the cold. Then what’s the likelihood of her being found naked?” Deepak, who claims to be an eyewitness to the incident, said that when he spotted the car and the woman under it, he immediately called the police and chased it for several kilometres.

“The body was visibly stuck under the car which made three rounds on the Kanjhawala Road taking U-turns after every few kilometres. Police just kept calling me and asking where I saw the body. I made a PCR call at 3.18 am, however, the first PCR call about the incident was made from Begumpur an hour before,” he told PTI.

Another person, who works as a delivery boy for a food delivery aggregator, said the car took a U-turn after the driver saw police barricades on Kanjahwala Road. “I was completing an order when at Maharaja Agrasen Chowk a car running at high speed almost knocked me down. When the car took a U-turn upon noticing the barricades I saw the head of a girl at the rear end of the vehicle,” he said.

Police have said the victim’s body was sent to the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Mangolpuri for post-mortem. They said the victim’s leg got entangled in one of the wheels of the car and she was dragged around.

Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal asked police to clarify if the woman was sexually harassed and if the accused have a criminal history. The panel on Sunday issued a notice to police in connection with the incident.

“I have some questions for Delhi Police. Was the woman sexually harassed by the accused? Was she killed like this after she protested over the harassment? For how many kilometres was she dragged by the car? Was there no checkpost or OCR van deployed on the stretch that she (was) dragged on?” Maliwal asked.

Akhilesh wishes Bharat Jodo Yatra success, will not be attending it 

Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav on Monday thanked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for inviting him to his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and wished it a success, even as the party said he will not be attending it.

SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said Yadav will not participate in the yatra, nor will any other leader from the party.

The nationwide yatra will enter Uttar Pradesh from the Loni border in Ghaziabad on January 3 afternoon and will halt for the night in Mavikala village in Baghpat. It will pass through Shamli in U.P. on January 4 and enter Haryana through Sanauli in Panipat on January 5 evening.

In a letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi, Yadav said, “Thanks for the invitation to the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and wishes for the success of the ‘Bharat Jodo’ initiative.”

“India is a feeling which is beyond geographical expansion, where there is love, non-violence, emotions, co-operation and bonhomie — the positive elements, which unite India. Hope that this yatra achieves its aim of conserving this inclusive culture,” the former U.P. Chief Minister said in the missive he posted on Twitter.

Chaudhary, when asked whether Yadav or any other SP leader will be going to the yatra, told PTI, “Akhilesh will not participate in the yatra and there is nil possibility of any other leader of the party going there.”

Senior U.P. Congress leader Nasimuddin Siddiqui, when contacted, told PTI, “Rahul Gandhi ji had written a letter to Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday to be a part of the yatra.”

“I do not have any information on this,” he added, when asked whether Yadav will be attending it.

In a tweet in Hindi, BSP chief Mayawati said, “Best wishes for the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and thanks to Rahul Gandhi for writing a letter to me to take part in the yatra.”

However, there was no information as to whether Mayawati will participate in the yatra.

Meanwhile, in Ballia, the president of Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) Om Prakash Rajbhar told PTI, “A few days ago, I got the invitation for the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi, and former Union minister Salman Khurshid called me discussing this.

“The matter was discussed on Sunday with the party’s office bearers, and it was decided that the party will not be a part of Bharat Jodo Yatra.” Rajbhar also asked what was the need to integrate India, when it was never disintegrated in the first place. “When has India disintegrated? Neither the Hindus living in the country nor the Muslims living in the country are in danger,” he said.

“The country is also not in danger. Yatras are being taken out to strengthen one’s party, so that it may make a strong connection with the masses,” he added. Bhartiya Kisan Union National Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said he will not be attending the yatra.

“I am not going to participate in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. But we are not stopping anyone from participating in it. The BKU workers who want to participate in the yatra are free to do so. However, office bearers above the rank of district presidents will not participate in the yatra,” he said. “Ours is an apolitical organisation. People from different ideologies are in our organisation,” he said.

Russia says 63 soldiers killed by Ukrainian strike in Donetsk region 

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on January 2, 2023 that 63 Russian soldiers had been killed in a Ukrainian New Year’s Eve attack on their quarters in the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Donetsk province.

Footage posted online showed a building purported to be a vocational college in the town of Makiivka, twin city of the regional capital Donetsk, reduced to a field of smouldering rubble.

Earlier, Ukraine’s defence ministry said as many as 400 Russians had been killed.

Daniil Bezsonov, a senior Russian-backed regional official in the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk region, said the vocational college had been hit by U.S.-made HIMARS rockets at around midnight, as people in the region would have been celebrating the start of the New Year.

One Russian pro-war military blogger known as Rybar, who has more than one million subscribers on the Telegram messaging app, said more than 100 people had been wounded in the strike and that rubble was still being cleared.

Rybar said there had been about 600 people in the building, and that ammunition had been stored in the same facility. Russia’s Defence Ministry gave its estimate of the death toll only in the final paragraph of a 528-word daily battlefield roundup.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield accounts, but was able to confirm the location of the video from the nearby buildings and road layout seen in the footage, although not the date that it was filmed.

A source close to the Russian-installed Donetsk leadership told Reuters the building had been used to house some of the 300,000 or more soldiers mobilised since September, many of them already sent to the front to bolster Russia’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine.

Russian nationalist war bloggers seethed with anger at the heavy loss of soldiers.

Igor Girkin, a nationalist and former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer who helped Russia annex Crimea in 2014 and then organise pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine, said in a Telegram post at 0908 GMT on Monday that “the number of dead and wounded runs into many hundreds”.

Girkin, who has bitterly criticised Russia’s military failures in Ukraine, also said ammunition had been stored at the facility.

“This is not the only such (extremely dense) deployment of personnel and equipment in the destruction zone of HIMARS missiles,” he wrote. “And, yes, this is not the first such case.”

Archangel Spetznaz Z, another Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on Telegram, wrote: “Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in one building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?”

In Brief: 

Terrorists struck for the second time at the same site within 14 hours in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri, leaving a minor sister-brother duo dead and six others injured in an IED explosion on Monday. Sanvi Sharma (7) and Vihan Kumar Sharma (4) were killed in the blast in Dangri village where terrorists had opened fire at three houses on Sunday evening, killing four civilians and injuring six others, according to officials. The explosion took place near the house of Pritam Lal, a victim of the terror attack on Sunday evening, locals said. There were several people, including Lal’s relatives, in the house when the blast took place at around 9.30 am.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.  

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