Business 26 February 2019

Erik Gibbs

India’s Supreme Court gives authorities a month to create crypto regs

India’s Supreme Court has ordered authorities in the country to come up with regulations for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies within the next four weeks. The move comes following what has been seen as a string of delays in creating the necessary framework to govern the space, and could finally allow the country to properly embrace – or deny – the legitimacy of digital currency.

According to the Indian media outlet Inc42, the Supreme Court bench comprised of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Vineet Saran will take control and issue its own guidelines if the government doesn’t respond within the four-week period.

Inc42 spoke with one of the petitioners seeking the court’s input on the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) refusal to work with crypto companies, Vijay Pal Dalmia, who said that the court has now given an ultimatum to the government and that this will hopefully lead to proper regulations. Since it has issued an ultimatum, the RBI debate will not be considered further at this time.

Nischal Shetty, founder and CEO of the WazirX crypto startup, told Inc42 that this was the first time the Supreme Court has taken a stance and ordered the government to create the regulations. It should go a long way in relieving the uncertainty surrounding the future of the crypto ecosystem.

RBI ordered all banks in the country to avoid working with crypto entities in April of last year. Since then, a number of companies have been forced to permanently shut down their operations and the crypto industry has not had a sure footing upon which to build. Several lawsuits against the RBI emerged, including one by the owners of the CoinRecoil crypto exchange, Kali Digital Eco Systems, but there has been virtually no progress made.

Kali had argued that the central bank’s stance was illegal in accordance with two articles of the country’s constitution. Under Article 14, India cannot “deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.” Under Article 19 (1) (g), “all citizens shall have the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.”

Even before the RBI saga, crypto proponents had been trying to get India to make progress on crypto regulations. As early as July 2017, advocates had approached the Supreme Court looking for guidance, but, two years later, nothing has developed. At least now there is a definitive deadline for some movement – whether it will be for or against crypto is not yet known.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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