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Archive for February, 2017

Demonetisation of old notes: The proposed law explained

February 7th, 2017 No comments

The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017 is being discussed in Parliament today.[1]  The Bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated on December 30, 2016 to remove the Reserve Bank of India’s  (RBI) liability and central government’s guarantee to honour the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes which were demonetised on November 8, 2016 through a notification.[2]  These notes were allowed to be deposited in banks by December 30, 2016.  In light of this, we explain the provisions of the Bill and possible implications.

What does the Bill say?

Under the RBI Act, 1934, RBI is responsible for issuing currency notes, and is liable to repay the holder of a note upon demand.  The Bill provides that, from December 31, 2016, RBI would no longer be liable to repay holders of old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the value of these notes.[3]  Further, the old notes will no longer be guaranteed by the central government.

Can a person keep old notes?

A person will be prohibited from holding, transferring or receiving the old notes from December 31, 2016 onwards.  It exempts some people from this prohibition including: (i) a person holding up to 10 old notes (irrespective of denomination), and (ii) a person holding up to 25 notes for the purposes of study, research or numismatics (collection or study of coins or notes).

What happens if a person continues to hold old notes after December 30, 2016?

Any person holding the old notes, except in the circumstances mentioned above, will be punishable with a fine: (i) which may extend to Rs 10,000, or (ii) five times the value of notes possessed, whichever is higher.

Are there any issues with this provision?

There may be two issues.

No window to deposit old notes before imposing penalty:  The notification of November 8th allowed old currency notes to be deposited till December 30, 2016 and specified that people unable to deposit them till this date would be given an opportunity later.2  However, the Ordinance which came into force on December 31, 2016 made it an offence to hold old currency notes from that day onwards and imposed a penalty.  This overnight change did not provide a window for a person holding the notes on that day to exchange or deposit them.  Therefore, not only did the holder lose the monetary value of the notes but he was also deemed to have committed an offence.  This implies that a person who had the notes did not have an opportunity to avoid committing an offence and attracting a penalty.

Unclear purpose behind penalty on possessing old notes:  The purpose and the objective behind imposing a penalty for the possession of old currency notes is unclear.  One may draw a comparison between holding an invalid currency note, and an expired cheque since both these instruments are meant to complete transactions.  Currently, a cheque becomes invalid three months after being issued.  However, holding multiple expired cheques does not attract a penalty.

Is it still possible to deposit old notes?

The government has specified a grace period under the Bill to allow: (i) Indian residents who were outside India between November 9, 2016 to December 30, 2016 to deposit these notes till March 31, 2017, and (ii) non-residents who were outside India during this period to deposit notes till June 30, 2017.  The government may exempt any other class of people by issuing a notification.  In addition, RBI has permitted foreign tourists to exchange Rs 5,000 per week.  No other person can exchange or deposit old notes after December 30, 2016.

Would this satisfy Constitutional norms?

While the notification issued on November 8 specified that after December 30, 2016, any person unable to exchange or deposit old notes would be allowed to do so at specified RBI offices, the Bill does not provide such a facility except in the circumstances discussed above.

On may question whether this violates Article 300A of the Constitution, which states that no person will be deprived of his property except by law.  Though this Bill will be a “law”, one may want to think about whether its provisions meet the standards of due process and are not arbitrary.  Given that earlier notifications had indicated that a facility for exchanging or depositing old notes would be provided after December 30, 2016, would the action of not providing such facility under the Bill qualify as an arbitrary action which violates due process? [4]  A few examples will be useful in examining this question.

Case 1:  A person unable to deposit notes due to poor health

A person may have been unable to deposit old currency notes owing to various reasons such as poor health, old age or disability till the deadline of December 30, 2016.  The Bill does not provide any facility for such persons to deposit old notes, except if they were not in India during the period between November 8 and December 30, 2016.

Case 2: A person without a bank account

A person without a bank account may have held over Rs 4,500 in old currency notes.  The notification (and future modifications) allowed a person to exchange up to Rs 4,500 over the counter once till November 24, 2016.[5]  Such a person would have to incur a monetary loss if he possessed old notes above this value, given his inability to deposit them in a bank account.

Case 3: Indian citizens living abroad

There may be Indians working or studying abroad holding old currency notes.  The government has notified the last date for depositing old notes for these non-resident Indians as June 30, 2017.[6]  However, these people may not visit India between November 8, 2016 and June 30, 2017.  In such a scenario, these people may have to incur a monetary loss.

Case 4: Foreign nationals entering India before demonetisation

Foreign tourists in the country may have held old currency notes before demonetisation on November 8, 2016.  Such tourists can only exchange old currency notes of up to Rs 5,000 per week till January 31, 2017.[7]  Given that such foreigners may not have bank accounts in India, they may also suffer a monetary loss for whatever amount could not be exchanged within the period they were in India.  For example, a person who had Rs 10,000 and left India on November 13, 2016 would not have been able to get the value of notes they had, over Rs 5,000.

In addition, Indian currency notes are used legally in neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bhutan.  The Bill allows only Indian citizens to deposit old notes for an extended period under certain conditions.  However, it does not make any provisions for foreigners to deposit or exchange old notes held by them.  Such foreign nationals who are not Indian residents would not have bank accounts in India.

[1] The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Specified%20Bank%20notes/specified%20bank%20notes%20bill%202017-compress.pdf.

[2] S. O. 3407 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Finance, November 8, 2016, http://finmin.nic.in/172521.pdf.

[3] The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Ordinances/Specified%20Bank%20Notes%20%28Cessation%20of%20Liabilities%29%20Ordinance,%202016.pdf.

[4] Section 2 (ix) of the notification issued on November 8, 2016 (No. S. O. 3407 (E)) states that any person who is unable to exchange or deposit the specified bank notes in their bank accounts on or before the 30th December, 2016, shall be given an opportunity to do so at specified offices of the Reserve Bank or such other facility until a later date as may be specified by it.

[5] S. O. 3543 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Finance, November 24, 2016, http://finmin.nic.in/172740.pdf.

[6] S. O. 4251 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Finance, December 30, 2016, http://dea.gov.in/sites/default/files/24Notification%2030.12.2016.pdf.

[7] Exchange facility to foreign citizens, January 3, 2017, https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10815&Mode=0.

President’s Address 2014 to 2017: Plan vs. Performance

February 6th, 2017 No comments

Budget Session 2017 commenced with the President, Pranab Mukherjee, addressing a joint sitting of Parliament on January 31, 2017.  This address by the President highlights the legislative and policy activities and achievements of the government in the previous year.  In addition, it gives a broad indication of the government’s agenda for the year ahead.  The address is followed by a motion of thanks that is moved in each House by ruling party MPs.  This is followed by a discussion on the address and concludes with the Prime Minister replying to the points raised during the discussion.

In the lower house, the motion of thanks has begun today.  It began in the upper house on February 2, 2017.  Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have allocated two and three days for the discussion, respectively.  In this context, we present an analysis of the salient points of the agenda proposed in the President’s address from 2014 to 2017 and the current status of its implementation.

Policy priority stated in the President’s address (2014 to 2017) Current Status 
Macroeconomy
  • GDP growth has made India the world’s fastest growing economies, among large economies.
  • Foreign exchange reserves have been at an all-time high, and inflation, current account deficit and fiscal deficit have consistently reduced since 2014.
  • The GDP is estimated to grow at 7.1% in 2016-17, compared to its growth of 7.9% in 2015-16.[i]
  • The Economic Survey 2016-17 has stated the GDP growth to be between 6.75% and 7.5% in 2017-18.[ii]
  • The average CPI inflation declined from 5.6% in December 2015 to 3.4% in December 2016.[iii]  In the same period, food inflation also decreased from 6.4% from 1.4%.3
  • Current account deficit decreased from USD 14.7 billion in 2015-16 (April-September) to USD 3.7 billion in the corresponding period in 2016-17.[iv]
  • Foreign exchange reserves presently stand at Rs 24,54,950 crore, an increase of Rs 1,02,130 crore from 2016.[v]
Poverty eradication and financial inclusion
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched to provide universal access to banking facilities.  The coverage under the scheme is close to 100%.
  • The proposed Postal Payment Bank of India will further boost financial inclusion.
  • Presently, around 27 crore accounts have been opened under the scheme.[vi]  However, out of these, 25% of the accounts are zero balance accounts.6
  • The Indian Postal Payments Bank has started.[vii]  The postal network with over 1.5 lakh post offices will also function as postal banks.7
Agriculture and water security
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has expanded risk-coverage, doubled the sum insured, and facilitated low premium for farmers.
  • The government is also committed to implementation of Interlinking of Rivers Project.
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has been implemented by 21 states.[viii]  3.66 crore farmers have been covered under the scheme, out of a total of 11 crore farmers in the country.[ix]
  • In April 2015, a Task Force was constituted on the Interlinking of Rivers Project.[x]  The Task Force is yet to submit its report.  The sub-Committee on restructuring the National Water Development Agency in September 2015 had recommended that a National Interlinking of Rivers Authority should be created through an Act of Parliament.[xi]  So far, further steps have not been taken in this regard.
Energy
  • The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014 has been introduced to bring reforms in the electricity sector.
  • Renewable energy capacity will manifold to 175 GW by 2022.
  • The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014 is pending in the Parliament.  The Standing Committee submitted its report on the Bill in May, 2015.[xii]
  • As of December 2016, 51 GW of renewable energy has been generated in the country.[xiii]  However, in 2016-17, only 26% of the target of the generation of renewable energy could be achieved.13
Governance and legal reforms
  • Close to 1,800 obsolete legislation are at various stages of repeal.
  • My government is committed to providing 33% reservation to women in the Parliament and state Legislative Assemblies.
  • Amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act are also on the anvil.
  • 758 Appropriation Acts and 295 laws have been repealed.[xiv],[xv]
  • No Bill in relation to providing 33% reservation to women has been introduced yet.
  • The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, is presently pending in Parliament.  The Standing Committee and Rajya Sabha Select Committee have submitted their reports on the Bill.
Defence
  • One Rank One Pension scheme will be implemented.
  • Defence procurement procedure has been streamlined with a focus on indigenously designed, developed and manufactured weapon systems.
  • Recognising the importance of coastal security, the government will set up a National Maritime Authority.
  • The government will also build a National War Memorial to honour the gallantry of our soldiers.
  • The implementation of One Rank One Pension scheme has been initiated.[xvi]  In 2016-17, Rs 12, 456 crore was allocated to the scheme.[xvii]
  • The Defence Procurement Policy 2016 added an additional category “Buy (Indian-Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured) as the most preferred way of capital acquisition.[xviii]
  • The National Maritime Authority and National War Memorial are yet to be established.
Environment
  • Funds will be released to states and union territories for aggressive afforestation.
  • To conserve the Himalayan ecology, a National Mission on Himalayas will be launched.
  • Target for emission standards for motor vehicles has been drastically brought forward to achieve Bharat Stage –VI norm by 2021.
  • Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 in July 2016.[xix]  The Bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund for each state.  These Funds will be primarily spent on afforestation.
  • The National Mission on Himalayas is yet to be launched.
  • To make Bharat Stage-VI norms applicable by April 1, 2020, a draft notification was released in February 2016.[xx]
Rural and Urban Development
  • To develop 300 rural growth clusters across the country, Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission has also been launched.
  • Mission Antyodaya, an intensive participatory planning exercise has been initiated.
  • Annual action plan for 500 cities with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore has been approved.
  • To implement the Rurban mission, Rs 5,142 crore has been allocated for the period from 2015-16 to 2019-20.[xxi]
  • Under Mission Antyodaya, the release of funds has been lower than the allocated amount in the last three years, from 2014-15 to 2016-17.[xxii]
  • Under the Smart Cities Mission, Rs 4,572 has been released to 98 cities during the years 2015-16 and 2016-17.[xxiii]
Health
  • My government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission.

 

  • Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojana has been launched to ensure that the poor have access to quality medicines at affordable prices.
  • A group was constituted in July 2014 to prepare a comprehensive background paper for the roll out of the National Health Assurance Mission.[xxiv]  Further progress in this regard has not been made.
  • The draft National Health Policy was released in December 2014 for public comments and suggestions.[xxv]  The Policy has not been finalised yet.
  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojana, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras are proposed to be opened in all 630 districts of the country.[xxvi]
Women and child development
  • A Bill to amend the Juvenile Justice Act has been introduced in Parliament to reform the law relating to juvenile offences.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 was passed by Parliament in December 2015.[xxvii]  The Bill permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences.


[Sources: President’s Address to the Parliament from 2014 to 2017; PRS.]

For important highlights from the President’s address in 2017, please see here.  For an analysis of the status of implementation of the announcements made in the 2016 address, please see here.


[i]
“Press note on First Revised Estimates of National Income, 2015-16”, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, January 31, 2017, http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_release/nad_PR_31jan17.pdf.

[ii] Economic Survey, 2016-17, http://finmin.nic.in/indiabudget2017-2018/e_survey.asp.

[iii] “Press Release Consumer Price Index Numbers on Base 2012=100 for Rural, Urban and Combined for the Month of December 2016”, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, January 12, 2017, http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_release/CPI_PR12jan17th.pdf

[iv] “Developments in India’s Balance of Payments during the second quarter of 2016-17”, Reserve Bank of India, December 13, 2016, https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=38884.

[v] “Developments in India’s Balance of Payments during the second quarter of 2016-17”, Reserve Bank of India, December 13, 2016, https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=38884.

[vi] Progress Report, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (Last accessed on January 24, 2017), http://www.pmjdy.gov.in/account.

[vii] “Cabinet approves setting up of India Post Payments Bank”, Cabinet, June 1, 2016.

[viii] “Achievements of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare”, Ministry of Agriculture, January 2, 2016.

[ix]  “Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2015”, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, http://eands.dacnet.nic.in/PDF/Agricultural_Statistics_At_Glance-2015.pdf.

[x] “Task Force on Interlinking Rivers Constituted”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Water Resources, April 14, 2015.

[xi] Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers, National Water Development Agency, http://www.nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/ilr/notification.pdf.

[xii] Report No. 4, Standing Committee on Energy, ‘The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014’, Lok Sabha, May 2015, Standing Committee on Energy, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Electricity/SC%20report-Electricity.pdf.

[xiii] “Physical Progress (Achievements)”, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy,  March  30, 2015, http://mnre.gov.in/mission-and-vision-2/achievements/.

[xiv] Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Act, 2016, http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/Act22of2016AppropriationActsrepeal.pdf.

[xv] Repealing and Amending Act, 2016, http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/Act23of2016RepealingandAmending.pdf.

[xvi] 12(1)/2014/D (Pen/PoI)- Part II, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, Department of Ex- Servicemen Welfare, November 7, 2015, http://www.desw.gov.in/sites/upload_files/desw/files/pdf/OR OP-DESW-MOD.pdf.

[xvii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question 1696, Ministry of Defence, November 25, 2016, http://164.100.47.190/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU1696.pdf.

[xviii] “Year End Review 2016”, Ministry of Defence, December 31, 2016, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=156049.

[xix] The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Compensatory%20Afforestation/CAMPA%20act,%202016.pdf.

[xx] Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question No 82, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, April 25, 2016.

[xxi] Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question No 914, Department of Rural Development, May 2, 2016 , http://164.100.47.234/question/annex/239/Au914.pdf.

[xxii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No 4443, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, December 14, 2016, http://164.100.47.190/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU4443.pdf.

[xxiii] Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No 199, Ministry of Urban Development, November 16, 2016, http://164.100.47.190/loksabhaquestions/annex/10/AU199.pdf.

[xxiv] “Rolling out of National Health Assurance Mission”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, July 15, 2014.

[xxv] Draft National Health Policy 2015, December 2014, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, http://www.mohfw.nic.in/showfile.php?lid=3014.

[xxvi] Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadi Pariyojana guidelines, http://janaushadhi.gov.in/data/Individuals_December_2016.pdf.

[xxvii] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Juvenile%20Justice/Juvenile%20Justice%20Act,%202015.pdf.