The Supreme Court today said it would examine the decision-making process behind the demonetisation exercise carried out by the Narendra Modi government in the period 8 November-31 December 2016 — notwithstanding the bench’s remark that it is aware of the "Lakshmanrekha'' on judicial review of government policy decisions. The apex court asked the union government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to file detailed affidavits.
A five-judge constitution bench led by Justice SA Nazeer will hear the case next on 9 November, a day after the sixth anniversary of the historic disruptive exercise to suddenly strip the Indian economy of its currency notes of denomination Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 with an aim to inconveniencing cash hoarders. The bench said when an issue arose before a constitution bench, it is its duty to answer.
Attorney-General R Venkataramani said unless the High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, passed in 1978, was challenged in a proper perspective, the issue would essentially remain academic.
The Supreme Court bench, also comprising Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian, and BV Nagarathna, said it needed to examine the matter since both sides are not agreeable — in order to declare whether the exercise was academic or infructuous. The bench said, "We always know where the Lakshmanrekha is, but the manner in which it was done has to be examined. We have to hear the counsel to decide that."
The apex court was today hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the demonetisation exercise when the government scrapped the currency notes of high denomination.
Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for one of the parties, said the issue had not become academic and it had to be decided by the top court. He said that kind of demonetisation required a separate law made by the parliament.