India's Top Court Queries Government on Crypto, but May Not Expect a Response

The question was asked during a bail hearing, and a court order didn't say it needed an answer.

Feb 28, 2022 at 1:55 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 28, 2022 at 4:34 p.m. UTC

Amitoj Singh is CoinDesk's regulatory reporter covering India. He holds BTC and ETH below CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1,000.

For the first time since the Indian government proposed a crypto taxation regime, the country's Supreme Court asked one of the government's top lawyers to clarify the legality of cryptocurrencies. But the question, which was made during a bail hearing in a criminal case, might not be answered.

In an oral question, Supreme Court Justice Surya Kant asked Additional Solicitor General of India Aishwarya Bhati to explain the government's stance after the finance minister announced proposals in February that include a 30% tax on crypto trading, raising confusion as to the legal status of cryptocurrencies.

In response, the government lawyer said "we will do that," according to Live Law, a legal news website. He went on to explain that although the case involved cryptocurrencies, their legality was not a central issue, implying that the government did not need to respond. A court order did not mention that it would expect a response, and it's not clear the court will expect a response at the next hearing.

"It was a casual remark," said Deepak Prakash, the defense lawyer. "It was not the main issue concerning the court," he added.

The court was hearing a request to cancel the bail of Ajay Bhardwaj related to the GainBitcoin case in which the perpetrators are alleged to have offered a return of 10% on bitcoin for 18 months. It is alleged that the scammers collected a total 80,000 bitcoins with a value of $2.7 billion from thousands of people.

The government's legal team feels the court was satisfied with its explanation that the case was not relevant to the legality of crypto, and believes that's why it did not persist on that line of questioning, and thus the government has no need respond to the question in the next hearing, according to people familiar with the team's thinking.

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Amitoj Singh is CoinDesk's regulatory reporter covering India. He holds BTC and ETH below CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1,000.

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Amitoj Singh is CoinDesk's regulatory reporter covering India. He holds BTC and ETH below CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1,000.

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