Indian Supreme Court Rejects Crypto Framework Petition

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  • India’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by filmmaker Manu Prashant Wig urging the government to regulate cryptocurrency
  • The court deemed the petition a ploy for bail, expressing skepticism about Wig’s motives
  • Cryptocurrency is technically illegal to use in India but there is no ban on using it

India’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected a petition urging the government to establish regulations for cryptocurrency trading and mining. The public interest litigation filed by film director Manu Prashant Wig, who is currently in custody on charges of involvement in a scheme to solicit investments, sought guidelines and prosecution directions for digital assets. However, the court viewed his petition as an attempt to seek bail and was unconvinced, citing that he had other motives other than the growth of the crypto sector in the country. 

India’s Rocky Relationship with Crypto

India’s relationship with cryptocurrency has been a fractious one. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) first warned about cryptocurrencies back in 2013, suggesting on multiple occasions that it would introduce a ban but has always refrained from doing so. In 2018 the government set up a series of interdisciplinary meetings on the matter in order to try and get a resolution on the matter in place, but nothing ever came of it.

The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill was introduced in 2021 with the purpose of creating “a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the RBI,” although many saw this as a defacto ban, or at least the start of one. However, Based on the various key statements made by the RBI Governor as well as various government spokespersons including the Finance Minister, it can be concluded that cryptocurrency exists in a gray area: cryptocurrency is illegal, but there is no certain ban on it in India.

Wig’s Attempt Falls Flat

Wig tried to use Article 32 of India’s Constitution as the foundation of his petition, which allows individuals to approach the highest court for fundamental rights protection. He is connected to Tokenz Limited, a centralized crypto exchange which, like him, faces charges of inducing people to invest in a scheme, with over 130 alleged victims.

Wig was granted the opportunity to seek regular bail and tried to claim that the relief sought was akin to legislative direction, but the court reminded him that they don’t have the power to direct legislation, which rests only with Parliament.