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Government introduces bill on demonetisation

New Delhi, Feb 3: Fince Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to formally make the banning of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes a law, which includes provisions of pelty for holding the demonetised bank notes.

The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017, seeks to replace the ordince on demonetisation promulgated by the government in December 2016.

The bill, like the ordince, provides that the specified bank notes, which have ceased to be legal tender, shall “cease to be liability of Reserve Bank of India”.

Brought as a money bill, the Rajya Sabha will not have any major role in its passage.

A fincial memorandum with the bill said it involves decision having impact on the “contingent liabilities of the central government and thus on the consolidated fund of India”.

It prohibits the holding, transferring or receiving of the ‘specified bank notes’ after December 31, 2016.

“On and from the appointed day, no person shall, knowingly or unknowingly or voluntarily hold, transfer or receive any specified bank notes,” the bill said.

As per the bill, an individual cannot hold more than 10 of the demonetised currency notes irrespective of value, and for the purpose of study or research, not more than 25 notes can be held.

For violation of these provisions, as per Section 5 of the bill, a fine will be imposed which can be of Rs 10,000 or five times the amount of the old currency notes held – whichever of the two is higher.

Those individuals who were outside India during November 9 to December 31, or any other class of persons specified by the central government, can make a declaration which will be verified by the Reserve Bank of India. If the RBI is satisfied with the reason cited it may credit the value of the old bank notes in the individual’s “Know Your Customer compliant bank account”.

Anyone aggrieved by RBI’s refusal to credit the value of old notes may approach the Central Board of the Reserve Bank within 14 days of communication of refusal.

Citing a false statement under this provision would be fined upto Rs 50,000 or five times the amount of bank notes tendered, whichever is higher.

In the Lok Sabha on Friday, as the Fince Minister stood up to introduce the bill, he was opposed by Trimool Congress member Saugata Roy, who termed the bill “illegal”.

A war of words was witnessed in the House as Jaitley and the Trimool Congress leader attacked each other over the issue.

Roy said he was questioning Jaitley’s “right to speak”, adding “Let him go to the Rajya Sabha and speak”.

In response, the Minister questioned the member’s right to oppose the bill and said: “His objection is something other than legislative competence. His objection is this is not a good bill.”

An angry Roy said: “He (Jaitley) is not even a member of this house. He is not aware of the rules of the house.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anth Kumar defended Jaitley and said: “He (Jaitley) has been a distinguished parliamentarian, and has also been adjudged best parliamentarian. He is well within his knowledge of both houses.”

Roy then said the question of legislative competence will arise later and that any member has the right to object to introduction of a bill.

“This bill is actually illegal because the basic statement by the Prime Minister (on demonetisation), without any notification on November 8 was illegal. No reference was made to the Parliament…” Roy said.

“The Reserve Bank writes on currency notes ‘I promise to pay the bearer…’ The notification (on demonetisation) should have been given by the Reserve Bank of India… I think it is outside the minister’s competence, and legislative competence to bring this bill,” the Trimool member continued.

“This bill, and the ordince are illegal. The government has imposed a disruptive step on the whole country’s economy. I am told even the Fince Minister did not know about the demonetisation move till the evening before. I oppose introduction of this bill,” Roy said.

Jaitley however said the member was wrong on several accounts.

“A bill can be opposed only on two grounds – One that the House does not have legislative competence or it is unconstitutiol. His objection is not on either ground,” Jaitley said.

He added that the government was well within its right in bringing in demonetisation.

“The November 8 notification was under Section 26-2… RBI had the competence to pass the order,” Jaitley said.

He also took a dig at the Trimool Congress member and said: “It will add to his long parliamentary experience; He will get to learn.”

Roy’s objection was overruled by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and the bill was then introduced in the lower house. (IANS)