New Delhi: Two days before the deadline for depositing old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes expires, the Cabinet today approved promulgation of an Ordinance to make possession of a large number of scrapped banknotes a penal offence that will attract monetary fine.
The Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance makes holding of old 1,000 and 500 rupee notes after March 31 beyond a threshold amount a criminal offence that will attract a monetary fine of Rs 10,000 or five times the cash held, whichever is higher.
Furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount.
Official sources said the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the Ordinance, but did not say if the penal provisions will apply to holding the junked currency after the 50-day window to deposit them at banks ends on December 30 or after March 31, till which time deposit of old currency notes at specified branches of the Reserve Bank after submitting a declaration form is open.
The Ordinance also provides for amending the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act to provide legislative support for extinguishing the demonetised banknotes that are not returned.
While the high-denomination currency ceased to be a legal tender from midnight of November 8, 2016, a mere notification was thought to be not enough to end the central bank's liability and avoiding future litigations.
Currency notes carry RBI's promise to pay the bearer the amount of the value of the note, a pledge that can be nullified only by legislation after giving due opportunity to everyone to return old notes.
Sources said the proposal put to the Cabinet was for a four-year jail term for anyone possessing a number of demonetised currency after March 31, 2017, but it was not immediately clear if it was approved.
The Ordinance will have to be sent to the President and after his assent will come into force