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India’s Supreme Court Urged to Rule on Cryptocurrencies


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Mohammed Danish is a lawyer practicing at the Delhi High Court in India. You can direct your queries to the Author at [email protected]

Since 2013, the RBI has been issuing cautionary advice in the public interest. However, a sense of relief was embedded in all the cautions for the investors that, if at all, the hammer of Government will only fall on the miscreants who will flout the law of the land.

Ministry of Finance had also constituted an inter-disciplinary committee was also appointed to examine the regulatory framework with regard to Virtual Currencies. The committee was comprised of representatives from different Government departments inter alia, stock exchange board of India and Reserve Bank of India. The act of appointing an expert committee also indicated that the Government is willing to rein in the cryptocurrencies in the best interest of all the participants.

In the mid of 2017, an unprecedented surge was seen in the advent of ICO’s and new crypto exchanges and the price of the bitcoin had ascended the ladder of an unusual value (above $21,000.00). As a result of an increase in price and huge profits earned by the investors caused the bitcoin to become the topic of every tongue. With the increased popularity of bitcoin, fraud and crimes involving the same also increased and then began the era of knocking the doors of Supreme Court by Public Spirited persons.

The first Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was brought before the Supreme Court by Mr. Vijay Pal Dalmia Advocate, by way of Writ Petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a ban on sale and purchase of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, litecoin etc in India. The said Writ was ordered by Apex Court to be treated as a representation and Reserve Bank of India was directed to examine the same and communicate its decision on the representation within a specified time. However, the RBI instead of clarifying its stance on the issue evasively responded while giving information about the appointment of Inter-Disciplinary Committee by the Ministry of Finance.

Thereafter, the same Petitioner filed another PIL seeking that cryptocurrencies and all the platforms including mobile applications, websites etc. sued for sale and purchase of crypto, be declared as illegal. Just after this, another PIL was filed in which the difficulties faced by the investors were agitated and it was prayed to the Apex Court that the Crypto should either be regulated by a legal framework or it should be completely banned.

The aforesaid PILs are pending adjudication before the Supreme Court since November 2017 and surprisingly the Government has not disclosed its stance before the Supreme Court whether it is in favor or against the Crypto ecosystem.

In a recent development, the Internet and Mobile Association of India has also filed an impleadment application in the ongoing litigation praying that since the outcome of the decision of Supreme Court will have a bearing on its interest, therefore, it should also be allowed to advance its stance in the issue. There is strong likelihood that the new RBI notification severing fiat-crypto ties will be challenged in the Court of Law. So now the parties with competing interests are face-to-face before the Supreme Court, a gavel stroke of which will decide the future of cryptocurrencies in India.

The atmosphere on the social media indicates that the Crypto community is hopeful of a respite from the Supreme Court. And in other words of John McAfee, “You can’t stop things like Bitcoin. It will be everywhere and the world will have to readjust. World governments will have to readjust”.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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