The SC had, on December 7, directed the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to put on record the relevant records relating to demonetisation, and reserved its verdict.
Two pleas, two verdicts
Most petitions challenged the validity of demonetisation while some sought a fresh window for exchanging scrapped notes, which could not be exchanged within the deadline.
There will be two separate judgments by the bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian and BV Nagarathna. It is not clear whether the two judgments are concurring or dissenting.
Petitioners’ counsel P Chidambaram had argued that the government cannot initiate any proposal relating to legal tender. This can happen only on the recommendation of the RBI’s central board.
Attorney General R Venkataramani resisted judicial scrutiny saying the court cannot decide a matter when no tangible relief can be granted by way of “putting the clock back” and “unscrambling a scrambled egg”.
Will it matter?
In 2016, the government demonetised notes worth 86% of the money in circulation. It led to massive confusion and chaos for several weeks that saw people scrambling for new notes, queuing before banks and ATM kiosks for hours.
The economy and society have collectively now absorbed the shock in six years, prompting a remark that the judicial scrutiny could be just an “academic exercise”.
During the hearing in November-December, the SC hinted that it might not scrap demonetisation as ‘the clock cannot be turned back’ after six years.
But the SC said the arguments may lead it to lay down guidelines for such exercises in future.