The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Narendra Modi-led central government, asking it to explain why it junked the November 8 notification which stated that an opportunity will be given to those who are unable to deposit demonetised notes by December 30.
"For those who are unable to exchange their Specified Bank Notes on or before December 30, 2016, an opportunity will be given to them to do so at specified offices of the RBI, along with necessary documentation as may be specified by the Reserve Bank of India," the November 8 notification had said.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Kehar gave the directive on a petition filed by a woman who argued that she could not exchange a substantial amount of the defunct currency notes in November and December as she was pregnant at that time and that she intended to do so after giving birth to her child, the Economic Times reported.
At least four cases have been filed before the apex court alleging that RBI's refusal to accept old notes is a violation of statutory notification issued on 8 November 2016.
"The Prime Minister's speech and the notification that followed clearly said that any person who is unable to deposit the old notes before 31 December 2016 can do so at specific branches of RBI," the lawyer for petitioners argued.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar sought the Centre's response on the pleas before March 10.
The Supreme Court notice comes close on the heels of Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017, receiving the assent of the President on February 27
The legislation, which was passed by Parliament last month, makes holding, transfer and receiving of the old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes a criminal offence. It also ends the liability of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government on the currency notes demonetised in November last year.
It prohibits holding of "more than 10 notes in total, irrespective of the denomination" after expiry of the 50-day deadline on December 30 for depositing the junked currency in banks or post offices.
However, holding of up to 25 notes is provided for "the purposes of study, research or numismatics".
Violation is "punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 10,000 or five times the amount of the face value of the specified bank notes involved in the contravention, whichever is higher".
The Indian citizen, who was outside the country between November 9 and December 30, now has a grace period up to March 31 to tender the demonetised notes.
This grace period was provided subject to condition that the he or she makes a declaration of being outside India in the 50 days immediately following the November 8 demonetisation decision.
False declaration is punishable with a fine of at least Rs 50,000.
"Whoever knowingly and wilfully makes any declaration or statement... which is false in material particulars or omits to make a material statement or makes a statement which he does not believe to be true, shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 50,000 or five times the amount of the face value of the specified bank notes tendered, whichever is higher," the Act stipulates.