A second Indian lawyer has filed a petition to urge authorities develop a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin in the country.
Calcutta-based lawyer Bivas Chatterjee, who notably serves as the nodal office in the state of West Bengal, has filed for a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Calcutta High Court to force authorities into an “intervention to regulate the flow of Bitcoin” in India. The lawyer, who is also a cyberlaw expert, underlined links between cryptocurrency and the dark web, alleging their use in purchasing drugs, money laundering and terrorism funding, according to a Times of India report.
The PIL filing reportedly comes in the aftermath of arrests of two Calcutta youths who sold LSD patches after procuring them through the dark web with payments made in bitcoin.
“In Bengal, the economic impact of such a decentralized, unregulated and unaccounted parallel economic system is huge,” Chatterjee claimed, blaming cryptocurrencies for their alleged use in money laundering, tax evasion and terrorism funding. The lawyer also expressed concerns toward the soaring gains in value and adoption of cryptocurrencies, claiming the lack of regulation “to monitor the market of the ever-increasing value of Bitcoin,” was a huge threat.
He went on to state:
“There is an urgent need to frame a joint panel or a group of committees with experts from various fields to ensure the legality and accountability of cryptocurrency.”
The lawyer’s call comes in spite of the central Indian government establishing an inter-disciplinary committee to research and develop a framework for cryptocurrencies in April 2017. To this day, the panel’s findings remain under wraps and has not provided any clarity to the ongoing ambiguity of the cryptocurrencies’ legality in India.
After an unprecedented demonetization purge where the Indian government purged nearly 90% of all circulating cash obsolete overnight in late 2016, bitcoin has seen remarkable rates of awareness and adoption among everyday citizens and retail investors in the country. Chatterjee referenced this in his petition, claiming India’s advent into becoming a cashless economy saw bitcoin’s usage “maximized post demonetization.”
In a statement reported by the Indian Express, he added:
“In India, law enforcement agencies are confused… Either the government should ban Bitcoin by declaring it illegal like China or there must be a regulatory body to control its flow.”
As such, the Calcutta High Court is expected to hear the case on February 2. This is the second known petition by a lawyer forcing the issue of cryptocurrency regulations after a previous PIL submitted to India’s Supreme Court, the foremost court in the land, in November 2017. The PIL also called for a framework “to regulate the flow of Bitcoin” and gained support from the Supreme Court which demanded the Indian government and relevant ministries to respond to the petition.