The Supreme Court on Friday warned that there "may be riots” and refused the government's plea to stay cases filed against demonetisation in High Courts and lower courts across the country, saying 'how can we shut our doors to people when there is a problem of such magnitude."
It is a serious issue which requires consideration,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A R Dave said, while asking the parties to be ready with data and other issues in writing.
"Some measures are required. See the kind of problems people are facing. People have to go to the high court. If we shut them from going to the high court, how can we know the magnitude of the problem. People going to different courts indicates the magnitude of the problem,” the bench said.
It made the remarks as Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi submitted that any matter relating to challenge to the demonetisation issue be heard by the apex court only. He had asked the court to impose a stay on PILs filed in various courts in the country and urged the apex court to take up proceedings. "Parallel proceedings will create a lot of unnecessary confusion," he appealed to the court.
However, the bench said, "People are affected. People are frantic.... There may be riots. People have the right to approach the courts,” noting that there are difficulties and "can you (the Centre) dispute”.
"That is completely wrong. People are patiently standing in lines," disagreed Rohtagi, who then asserted: "The length of the lines is reducing by the day."
Mr Rohatgi added that the government did grant relief to farmers, families planning weddings and small traders.
Representing one of the petitioners, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, a senior Congress leader, alleged that people in villages and in the northeastern states are unable to withdraw money.
The government lawyer retorted: "Mr Sibal is making a political issue here. You can't convert this court into a political platform. Let him go outside and address people as a Congress person."
Rohatgi said Sibal was bringing politics into court room. "I have heard you in the press conference yesterday. You are speaking the same language here in court on demonetisation," he said. Sibal replied: "I have freedom of speech to criticise government policies. I am talking here about the problem faced by people not politics."
The SC asked Sibal to file documents substantiating his charges on inept handling of demonetisation and posted the matter for further hearing on November 25.