The Supreme Court wondered on Thursday whether bank officials pocketed the new currency worth `5 lakh crore infused into the system and why no steps were taken to secure the money pumped in post demonetisation.
“So your five lakh crore has gone this way. You are not able to secure it?” remarked a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur when attorney general Mukul Rohatgi admitted bank officials had indulged in fraud to divert the money.
The bench also questioned the NDA government’s decision to abruptly withdraw from December 15 midnight the exemptions granted to hospitals, pharmacies and railway bookings from accepting the scrapped currency notes.
The Supreme Court bench told Rohatgi the ground reality was that people were unable to get `24,000 as per a government promise. “How are some people getting crores in new currency? How is somebody able to get so much money?” it asked him, anxious to know the pattern of disbursement.
The court said that it will give some interim relief before referring the matter to a larger bench that will test the constitutional validity of the demonetisation notification of November 8. The court is likely to fix a minimum withdrawal limit for cash, which the bank cannot deny, though the government failed to specify the ceiling.
On diversion of money, Rohatgi argued that “bank managers had done the fraud”. He referred to media reports on Axis Bank and said the Centre could not sit in every bank and monitor. “We are having raids every day. We discovered `10 crore in Axis Bank hidden somewhere to be given elsewhere,” he said.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for some petitioners who have challenged demonetisation as being illegal complained that banks were turning away people with just Rs 3,000 or Rs 5,000 cash. He said the government had decided to end the exemptions.