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Last Updated Saturday January 20 2018 11:38 PM IST

Five-judge bench to deal with pleas on depositing scrapped notes

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New Delhi: A five-judge constitution bench, which would decide the validity of the Center's November 8, 2016 decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, would also deal with the pleas seeking to deposit the demonetized currency, the Supreme Court said on Friday.

A bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra disposed of as many as 14 petitions, seeking its nod to deposit scrapped currency notes on the ground that they could not be deposited during the window period provided by Reserve Bank of India due to compelling reasons.

It asked the petitioners to file interlocutory pleas in the pending petition to be dealt with by the constitution bench.

"We think it appropriate that the writ petitioners shall file interlocutory pleas in the pending writ petition... before the Constitution bench," the bench, also comprising justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, said.

The top court said it has not opined on the merits of the validity of the ordinance or on the demonetization decision, which would be dealt with by the larger bench along with the individual grievances.

Attorney general K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Center, said the persons, who have approached the court for depositing scrapped notes, would not be prosecuted with regard to the amount specifically mentioned in their petitions.

Some petitioners claimed they have not challenged the constitutional validity of either the provisions of the RBI Act or the Center' notification, but they want to deposit their demonetized currency notes.

"Our hard-earned money has been confiscated without due process of law and without granting fair opportunity," lawyer Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for one of the petitioners, said, adding that the constitution bench should be constituted as expeditiously as possible.

The bench was hearing a batch of petitions, including one filed by one Sudha Mishra seeking a direction to authorities to allow her to deposit demonetized notes as she could not do so during the period specified by the Center and the RBI.

The Center has already filed an affidavit saying that the government was not going to open any window now to deposit the old notes.

One of the pleas said the government had assured the people that demonetized currency notes could be exchanged at banks, post offices and RBI branches till December 30, 2016. If people were unable to deposit them by that day, they could do so till March 31, 2017 at RBI branches after complying with certain formalities.

The prime minister's address to the nation on the evening of November 8 last year on demonetization and subsequent notifications of the federal bank that the devalued currency notes can be exchanged at RBI offices even up to March 31, 2017 were valid assurances which stood breached by the Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance, it said.

The Ordinance had specified that only those who were abroad or armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who could give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the canceled notes at banks, could deposit the demonetized currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes till March 31 this year.

The apex court had on December 16 last year referred to a Constitution Bench, the issue of validity of government's decision to demonetize currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500.

While holding that the challenge to the November 8 notification was in the arena of "public importance" as complaints of inconvenience have been brought, it had said there was a need for a direction for referring it to a larger bench for "authoritative pronouncement by five judges".

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