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Bitcoin Ban in India: Government Body Refuses to Answer Queries on Reported Bill

An RTI application to Department of Economic Affairs asking about the proposed “Banning of Cryptocurrencies” bill was rejected by officials. Reason of Rejection cited as this information may be made public soon.

Last month, a media report suggested that the Indian government is already is in discussions to prepare a bill for banning cryptocurrencies in the country.

The main government body behind the decision will be the Department of Economic Affairs, given that the government appointed committee deliberating regulations for crypto assets in India is headed by Subhash Chandra Garg, the finance secretary. Garg was the secretary at DEA when the panel was formed in late 2017. The panel is popularly touted as ‘Garg Committee’.

Asking Questions using Right to Information

Coin Crunch India followed a procedural route to ask the Government directly about the reported “Banning of Cryptocurrencies and Regulation of Official Digital Currencies Bill 2019”, using the RTI Act, 2005.

In the filed RTI, we asked if DEA is part of the committee forming the bill and whether or not they recommend a complete ban on Crypto in India among other questions.

The RTI was filed on April 26, one day after the reports surfaced. On May 20, 2019 DEA rejected the RTI application citing ‘Section 8(1)(i)’ as the reason for rejection.

DEA Rejects RTI Application

The Department of Economic Affairs rejected the application citing Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act as the reason. Here’s what the clause says formally,

“cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:
Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:
Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;”

Section 8(1)(i) of RTI act, 2005

This could mean that DEA simply rejected it because eventually the information has to be made public. But this is a big blow to Crypto enthusiasts in India, as we are once again left in dark about the future of Bitcoin and other Crypto assets in India.

There is still Hope

In a month from now, the Supreme Court will hear Crypto Vs RBI matter in court. On July 23, 2019 the court may ask the government to make its policy public or may even rule against the RBI’s decision to ban the regulated entities from providing services to people who deal in Crypto.

As such Cryptocurrencies aren’t illegal in India and many exchanges are still thriving with various models to circumvent the RBI’s diktat. However, a bill to ban cryptocurrencies if approved in the parliament may mean Indians will not be able to trade cryptocurrencies openly.

As the nature of Cryptocurrencies go, it won’t be possible to entirely curb the trade ecosystem, and may make it even more difficult to track down traders.

If you wish to raise an RTI asking the government some questions on Cryptocurrency and its ban, here’s our guide to raise RTI:

How to Raise an RTI request

Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay