The SC said that the Modi's government decision to close the March 31 RBI window to deposit old notes smacked of arbitrariness.
The apex court had earlier on March 6 issued notice to the government and RBI on the plea alleging that people are not being allowed to deposit demonetised currency notes till March 31 as promised. To this, the AG replied that law is above the speech of the Prime Minister.
"The ordinance withdrew the window without any notice", the CJI observed.
The Centre had in its last hearing submitted before the apex court that instead of filing any reply they will argue the matter directly.
Media reports subsequently had highlighted the plight of the common man.
After preponing the deposition of currency to December 30, the government stated that citizens travelling overseas during the demonetisation period will be only allowed to deposit the banned currency in the RBI office with the subject to verification.
Of the Rs 15.4 lakh crore worth of currency that was scrapped, about Rs 14 lakh crore has been deposited in banks or exchanged till December 28.
The Ordinance said that only those who were overseas, the armed forces personnel posted in remote areas or others who can give valid reasons for not being able to deposit the cancelled notes at banks can deposit the demonetised currency notes till March 31 at RBI counters. Besides, the Ordinance also provided for amending the RBI Act to enable legislative support for extinguishing the demonetised banknotes that are not returned.
The Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Khehar told the central government to respond within two weeks whether those who failed to deposit their old notes before 31 December could be allowed to do so now.
The pPrime minister's speech gave hope to those in difficulty to deposit demonetised currency by March 31. Indians who were overseas between November 9 and December 30 were given a three-month grace period till March 31, 2017 to deposit the junked notes, while for non-resident Indians, the extension was for six months, till June 30.