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More discomfort

More discomfort

Though the Supreme Court has rightly has asked the Centre to give the citizens one more chance to exchange their denotified Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, nobody really knows that whether the government would respond positively to this suggestion or not. Cautioning the government against depriving genuine persons of their hard-earned money and property, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Centre cannot close all options for such persons. "It is harsh if you close all options for genuine persons who were unable to deposit their demonetised notes within the stipulated period," a Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud told the government, represented by Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar. Chief Justice categorically said, "If I am terminally ill and could not deposit my money, I should be given an opportunity now to approach you and establish my facts and prove that it is my money... You can't just deprive me of my money because I am terminally ill. You are taking away my money because I am terminally ill? Citizens are facing problems and you are there to solve them. If not, serious problems will arise." Indian residents had a 50-day window up to December 30 last year to deposit their old notes. However, there are chances of individuals, especially the elderly, not having been able to exchange their old notes for a variety of reasons, from not being aware of the deadline, to being outside the country, or simply being deprived of the logistics of going to a bank or later, the RBI.

They should not be penalised for their inadvertent failure to deposit money in time. The case to give them another chance is compelling, given the susceptibility of their age and finances. Kumar, however, claimed the government had already filed an affidavit explaining why the period to deposit demonetised notes was restricted. The Centre restricted the grace period till March 31, 2017, only to Indian citizens who were abroad during the period between November 9 and December 30, 2016. Nonetheless, if the Centre takes cognizance of Supreme Court's suggestion, it would immensely benefit the holders, even if the amounts are not huge. Similarly, individuals who have taken ownership of old notes hoarded by their dear departed deserve a second chance. Deposits coming through the new window can be subject to extra scrutiny to prevent any laundering of tax-evaded money or the proceeds of crime. The tax information network and the Permanent Account Number, linked now to Aadhaar, will enable the tax office to track tax evasion and collect tax from people who have deposited money but cannot explain the source of income.


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