Indian crypto enthusiasts take to the streets, amidst Supreme Court delays

New chapter in India crypto ban debate – Massive brain drain anticipated

In India, it has been a year since its central bank effectively issued a ban on cryptocurrencies by forbidding its banking members from providing service to any crypto related company. Investors may still trade, but at least two exchanges have shut their doors, claiming a lack of basic transaction accounts in the domestic banking system as the cause. The public, however, is agitated by the intransigence of government officials to finalize crypto legislation and the continual delays of the Supreme Court to rule on pertinent cases. As a result, street protests have occurred in Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, and lastly in Bangalore, known as the Silicon Valley of India.

The crypto debate has been raging in India for the past two years, as government officials attempt to get their hands around the new technology wave and remove the apparent fear of several government agencies over what could transpire in a brave, new crypto world. An inter-ministerial committee of eight government agencies reconvened in January to resolve the debate, but it has yet to produce its report. It was originally formed in 2017, but the attendees could not reach a consensus. Subsequently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) acted on its own to institute a countrywide crypto ban.

Courtroom battles have ensued, but the Supreme Court has delayed any final resolution for nine months. Frustration recently reached another zenith, when the legal body announced yet another delay out to July 23, a Tuesday, which implies that the court will be open to hear lengthier arguments on the cases at hand. A decision after this final hearing would follow a few weeks hence. In the meantime, Indian citizens have protested vehemently in four cities, as “thousands of crypto and blockchain enthusiasts and professional stakeholders take to the streets” to make their sentiments known.

Akshay Aggarwal, the co-founder of Blockchain India, an incubator for blockchain developers, observed the protests and shared his perspective on the events:

The street demonstrations are occurring mainly because the whole crypto space represents a world different than we currently live in, a more efficient one, a more evolved one. One that is so different, that none of us is able to figure out if it would directly do more positive impact than the negative. On top of it, we don’t understand it completely, especially its multifold effects, and we always fear what we don’t understand.

Prior to this public upheaval among investors, traders, and crypto enthusiasts, optimism had been running high, based on this one comment from an insider that was privy to the committee’s crypto discussions: “We have already had two meetings. There is a general consensus that cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed as completely illegal. It needs to be legalised with strong riders. Deliberations are on. We will have more clarity soon.” Three months have passed, and no report has been published.

Are we any nearer to a finalization of this debate? Once again, opinions remain positive:

The country is in fact close to finalising the deal on it and is assessing the options regarding its security, anti-laundering, consumer protection, and tax concerns. In fact, the Supreme Court has granted the government four weeks to reach a conclusion and the final opportunity about the unrest that has been created by the cryptocurrency’s existence in the Indian financial domain.

Indian citizens, however, want change and are fearful that regulators could stand in the way of the country becoming “a more technologically advanced nation.” Supporters of the status quo, on the other hand, are resistant: “The main cause contributing to the Indian crypto dilemma is the ambiguity and the lack of knowledge among those who handle the money matters, but are comfortable in their set ways of transaction. This is rather an ironic situation as polls conducted by Statista state that with 83 percent Indians, and 93 percent Chinese, these two nations are leading the countries most-willing to use mobile-based app systems, in short, embrace technology than its contemporaries.”

For those practitioners closer to the ongoing legal proceedings, the general feeling is that we may be closer to a consensus than outsiders believe. According to Mohammed Danish, a Delhi based legal practitioner and Advisor to Crypto Kanoon:

The Supreme Court’s four-week opportunity came in the wake of the Ministry of Finance’s assurance that they were close to submitting the regulatory framework. The ball is now entirely in the government’s court – if they fail to take any policy decision on crypto during this while, the court will hear the case on merits and pass its judgment.

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Indian crypto enthusiasts take to the streets, amidst Supreme Court delays


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