PMC Bank Crisis: SC refuses to admit PIL against withdrawal limits

The plea sought directions to protect the money of around 15 lakh depositors whose money is locked in the PMC Bank scam.

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In another setback to the already suffering PMC depositors, the Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, refused to admit a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the PMC Bank issue on Friday.

Bejon Mishra, a Delhi-based consumer activist sought a court order quashing the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) cash withdrawal restrictions, but the SC bench asked him to move his plea before the “concerned High Court”. This is not the first PIL to be filed in the matter. Earlier, a group of depositors had too filed a PIL before the Bombay HC seeking to remove withdrawal restrictions imposed on the PMC Bank account holders.

Mishra had approached the SC saying that the Centre and RBI should be directed to “ensure complete insulation and protection of money deposited by people in various cooperative banks and nationalised banks by enacting an appropriate measure of 100 per cent insurance coverage towards the deposited amount.”

He also alleged that the Centre and RBI had not taken any emergency steps to ensure the protection of the money of these 15 lakh customers of PMC Bank.

Mentioning that thousands of depositors were grappling with the circular which issued to denote that the withdrawal limit is capped at Rs. 25,000, the petitioner called the notice ‘arbitrary and discriminatory’.

The SC has recently increased the withdrawal limit to Rs. 40,000 and provided a special withdrawal limit of Rs. 1 lakh for medical emergencies and Rs. 50,000 for occasions like marriage and the needs of aged persons and persons with disabilities.

This move came in after almost 4 people lost their lives due to stress-related incidents after the news of the scam and when one person committed suicide being unable to bear the uncertainty in the matter.

Advocate ShashankDeoSudhi, the petitioner’s counsel said that the issue had involved four states – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Yet, the SC dismissed the petition and asked the petitioner to approach the High Court.

Solicitor Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, said that the Government was concerned about the issue and that prompt steps had been taken in the matter.

Mishra’s plea also requested that a high-powered committee be constituted to look into the complete affairs of the working and operations of all cooperative banks to ensure a transparent mechanism that would inspire confidence of the common people with regards to such banks. This, especially after the PMC scam has eroded the confidence of the people in the banking system of the country.

Meanwhile, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has appointed Ajay Misar as a Special Public Prosecutor to ensure there are no legal loopholes in the case given its scale. Misar has earlier handled high-profile cases including the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case. Misar’s appointment is meant to ensure that there is a speedy recovery of the money after the auctioning of the attached properties which have approximately amounted to Rs. 4,500 crore.
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