Business 10 January 2018

Ed Drake

Lawyer fights for cryptocurrency regulation in India

A lawyer has petitioned courts in India demanding action on introducing regulation for cryptocurrencies in the country, in the latest call on the Indian government to formalize its legal approach.

Kolkata lawyer Bivas Chatterjee filed the public interest litigation with the high court, in a bid to force the government’s hand on introducing concrete regulations for cryptocurrency markets, particularly in light of issues around criminality.

Chatterjee said that because of past links between cryptocurrencies and illegal activities, including on the dark web, regulation was urgently required to gain state control of cryptocurrency transactions.

The news follows several arrests locally over the last week, including some specifically linked to the trade of illegal drugs through SegWit1x (BTC) on the dark web.

Further, the petition follows on from previous requests from the Indian courts for action on the issue, in light of delays in the government clarifying their stance.

The economic impact of unregulated cryptocurrency transactions is ‘vast,’ with the ‘absence of controlling authorities’ a growing problem for investors and regulators alike, according to Chatterjee.

Summing up in the terms of the petition, Chatterjee urged the courts to ensure immediate action from Indian authorities in clarifying the regulatory position.

“There is an urgent need to frame a joint panel or a group of committees with experts from various fields to ensure the legality and accountability of cryptocurrency,” he said.

According to local media reports, Chatterjee also suggested BTC should be banned outright, or alternatively subject to the regulation of a regulatory body, specifically set up to oversee cryptocurrency markets.

The case is expected to be heard at the beginning of February, and could prompt the Indian government to reconsider its position on cryptocurrency regulation.

The Indian government has previously acknowledged its desire to regulate BTC, and the wider cryptocurrency space. However, after several committee reports, and a subsequent request for action from the Supreme Court in November, a firm policy approach has yet to materialize.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley confirmed in early December that the government did not recognize BTC as a legal currency. However, there remains no firm regulation at present for structuring cryptocurrency markets in India.

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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