“This happened because you locked down the entire country”: Supreme Court comes down heavily on central government

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Centre’s Narendra Modi government for imposing the nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of coronavirus. The Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah was hearing pleas seeking the waiver of loan interest during moratorium in view of the pandemic situation.

After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that there could not be a solution ‘which is one-size-fits-all,’ Justice Bhushan said, “This happened because you locked down the entire country. You have to tell us your stand on the Disaster Management Act & whether Interest on Interest will be accounted for.”

Justice Shah, for his part, said, “This is not the time to think about business only!.”

Mincing no words, Justice Bhushan told the government legal officer Mehta, “Please don’t hide behind the RBI. You have to put your stand on affidavit. You can’t leave it to banks.”

Mehta asked the court to grant him one week to file an affidavit clarifying his stand. The court fixed 1 September for the next hearing.

While announcing the nationwide lockdown at a short notice, the central government had also given relief to people in the form of a moratorium on their loans taken from banks. However, banks made it clear that consumers will have to pay interests on their loans if they wished to avail the moratorium, which ends on 31 August.

The petitioner has urged the top court to direct the central government and the Reserve Bank of India to ensure that interests on loans are waived off for the moratorium period.

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