The Supreme Court on May 17, 2018 barred all the high courts from listening to any plea related to an RBI circular that prohibited dealings in virtual currencies such as the Bitcoin. The ruling was passed by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. The bench gave the direction while hearing to pleas seeking direction to the Centre to take immediate steps to restrain the sale and purchase of illegal crypto currency or virtual currency like Bitcoin.
Petitioners, in their plea, sought a direction to the Centre to take steps to restrain sale and purchase of illegal crypto currencies like Bitcoins, which were being traded openly for illegal activities like funding terrorism and insurgency. It also sought to declare as illegal and ban all websites, web links and mobile applications that were being used to buy, sell or deal in any manner with illegal virtual currencies. Lastly, it sought a direction to the government to give advertisements and wide publicity through media informing and educating the public in India about the illegalities involved in sale, purchase and dealing of illegal virtual currencies.
1. The court directed that no High Court shall entertain any petition relating to RBI circular dated April 6, 2018 on ‘Prohibition on dealing in virtual currencies’.
2. Besides, the bench also granted liberty to one of the petitioners to submit a representation to the competent authority in RBI within two weeks so that it could be dealt with in accordance with law.
3. In a circular on April 6, RBI had directed all the banks and financial institutions to freeze the bank accounts of those individuals and companies dealing in the illegal trade of virtual currencies.