On the 15th of December the PIL I filed against #Demonetization came up for hearing again, the Madras bench arbitrarily mandated that I can only argue the matters in the additional affidavit that distinguished the Madurai judgment.
The Madras High Court repeatedly stated that the issue before the court was merely one of policy implementation, while simultaneously refusing to hear legal arguments that questioned the unconstitutional exercise that was put in place by the Central Government.
In addition to the legal argument, I had filed a list of 88 demonetization related deaths, their names, circumstances of their death, along with newspaper sources fact checked up a young reporter. The Madras High Court later called these deaths “alleged” in its decisions.
Another list with more than 70 economic and policy opinions from economists and legal scholars of different schools of thought was also filled that questioned the rationality of demonetization which the judge dismissed as “not a matter for us”.
Following is a transcript of what transpired in open court towards the end:
Suchitra Vijayan: In a democracy, the courts are the forums to adjudicate these issues
Chief Justice: This court is not a place for these arguments
Suchitra Vijayan: If this court is not a place for legal arguments, then what is your Lordship?
Chief Justice: It is not my job to give legal advice. You refer to law books and decide what to do.
Suchitra Vijayan: It is your job, your Lordship. This is an abdication of responsibility to judge; it’s your duty.
Chief Justice: Young lady this is not the language for this forum or the language to criticise the Madurai bench.
The Judge then read the last paragraph of the additional affidavit that I had submitted.
“ In words of Justice Louis Brandeis, the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. While one might excuse the errors on the Madurai benches order, as one of lack of foresight, the past month since demonetization has seen a loss of life and a destruction of economic livelihood on a scale unimaginable. Every single government action since has implicated itself of colossal ignorance, incompetence and censure of dissenting voices.”
After the reading this paragraph, the judge opined in open court that I might not be critical of the Madurai Bench, and concluded that: ” In fact, the petitioner, a young lawyer, goes on to state that while one might excuse the errors of the Madurai Bench’s order as one lacking in foresight – the language should have been eschewed.”
Immediately the judge dismissed the petition saying it was a mere matter of policy implementation, and that it agreed with the Madurai Bench’s decisions.
I am writing something longer, an essay looking at the issue of Judicial compliance and the PMO’s expansion of executive power through stacking democratic institutions with ideological foot soldiers.
I would like to thank Nishant Saxena of Catch News who compiled the #demonetization related deaths that I filed as a part of the PIL. Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan for curating the list of over 70 economic and policy opinions. Shyamala Thenamirtha for her robust support and assistance in the Madras High Court. Kalyanam Vijayan for helping me think through the nuanced aspects of the statutory interpretations. All the others who have sent thought full comments and information over the past month.
Update, Nov 24th
Fifteen days after the Indian government under Prime Minister Modi announced demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, I moved the Madras High Court seeking to declare the notification as illegal, ultra vires to the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act and Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution. The current RBI statute under Sec 24 and Sec 26 I argue does not authorise demonetization as implemented by the Government. The notification is unconstitutional. For other legal arguments please refer to the affidavit bellow.
Below is the Affidavit :affidavit-demonetization-edited1
Additional Affidavit :
List of Demonetisation Related Deaths As of December 4th