What dissenting Supreme Court judge said while declaring demonetisation illegal


The Supreme Court on Monday held with 4:1 majority that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to announce demonetisation on 8 November 2016 was illegal. However, one judge, justice BV Nagarathna, disagreed and concluded that the decision to ban Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes by announcing four hours of notice was illegal.


“The action of demonetisation initiated by the Central Govt as per Nov 8, 2016 notification is unlawful. But status quo ante cannot be restored at this point of time. What relief can be given now? Relief needs to be moulded,” Justice Nagarathna said in her dissenting note.

She added, “Demonetisation of all currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 is unlawful and vitiated. However, having regard to the fact that the notification has been acted upon, this declaration of law will act only prospectively and will not affect actions already taken.”

On 8 November, Modi had suddenly appeared on TV at 8 PM to address the nation in which he announced that Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes would be illegal after midnight the same evening. The decision had caused unimaginable chaos across the country. More than 200 people had died of demonetisation-related shock and stress.

Justice Nagarathna, however, said that the Modi government’s intention on the note ban could not be questioned. The judge, according to Livelaw, said, “The measure was well-intentioned and well thought of. It targeted evils such as blackmoney, terror funding and counterfeiting. The measure is declared unlawful purely on legal grounds and not on the basis of objects.”

She added, “Demonetisation was, beyond a pale of doubt, well-intentioned. Best intention and noble objects are not under question. The measure has been regarded as unlawful only on a purely legal analysis and not on the objects of demonetisation.”