The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the government notification demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes but told it to reduce the people’s trauma, saying “you cannot have surgical strike” against them.
“You (Centre) can have a surgical strike against blackmoney but you cannot have surgical strike against the people of the country,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud said, pointing to the long queues at banks and ATMs. “Carpenters, maids, vegetable sellers are dependent on cash. Are you capable of reducing their trauma? Your aim is to wipe out blackmoney but people are traumatised standing in queues for hours doing nothing,” the bench said.
“They (Centre) call it surgical strike. You (Kapil Sibal appearing for a petitioner) call it carpet-bombing. The object of such measures is against the people hoarding cash,”it said.
While observing that fighting the blackmoney menace was a “laudable” step, it asked the Centre to “consider taking steps to ease the pain of the common people” and also consider raising the limit of cash withdrawals.
“Why can’t it be raised to a reasonable level so that there is less number of people standing in the queue,” the bench said, adding that the inconvenience part has to be looked into.
The government told the apex court that the situation was being constantly monitored at the highest level and just now, it has been decided that the banks would allow from on Tuesday the withdrawal of Rs 50,000 per current account per week and the facilities would also be available to companies.
The apex court did not issue notices to the Centre or the RBI and asked them file a comprehensive affidavit detailing steps taken so far and other proposed measures to ameliorate the harassment and inconvenience caused to citizens due to demonetisation of the high value currency notes.
The government, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, came fully prepared to defend its ambitious step aimed at curbing blackmoney and counterfeit currency used in financing terror and extremist violence saying the target was to “catch the big fish” which the previous governments could not do in last 50 years.