A dubious concern in the banking finance sector in India today is the debate over according legal status to crypto/virtual currencies (“CCs”). The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI“), vide a notification (“Notification“), directed all entities regulated by RBI not to deal in CCs or provide any services for facilitating any person in dealing or settling with CCs. As the blockchain enthusiasts, the crypto-exchanges and individuals holding CCs, across the globe watched in approbation, in March 2020, the Supreme Court of India (“SC Case“), quashed the Notification, holding that the restrictions imposed by the Notification were disproportionate to the concerns raised by the RBI and therefore unsustainable. However, it was also held that RBI has inherent powers to regulate the dealing and trading of CCs in the interest of the banking system, monetary stability and sound economic growth. While this development was emblematic of optimism amongst industry players in India, the quashing of Notification had only brought CCs into a grey area and one could not have elided that RBI and legislators will be oblivion to any activity relating to CCs in future.
The Parliament proposes to introduce Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 (“Crypto Bill“) in its ongoing session. The Crypto Bill seeks to ban all private cryptocurrencies and create a legitimate framework for official digital currency in India, backed by government/RBI, while providing certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology driving the digital currency.
The Crypto Bill: What we see ahead?
The absence of any legislative/regulatory framework or policy confirming the status of CCs till date and the validity of trading in and dealing with them, questioned their future in India which hinged over a murky structure. The Crypto Bill has brought a ray of hope, suggesting a possible advent of a digital currency in India and its regulation by RBI/government. However, the Crypto Bill also suggests banning of all the private cryptocurrencies. The very news of introduction of Crypto Bill in the Parliament session has sent out shivers in the cryptocurrency market. The industry practitioners have hit the panic button due to the speculative foresightedness attached to the Crypto Bill, including more particularly the banning of ‘private cryptocurrencies’.
As to what is a ‘private cryptocurrency’ remains unclear for now as the draft of the Crypto Bill has not been made available to public. The crypto evangelist bat for currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum to be public currencies, however there is uncertainty, whether the Crypto Bill will render the use of currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum illegal in India.
Further, it remains to be seen whether CCs will be treated as a ‘currency’ or a ‘stock’ or there will be an outright ban on dealing with them. The proliferators of CCs contend that they cannot be differentiated, …