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Jammu and Kashmir HC disposes of PIL seeking Shariah compliant windows in Jammu and Kashmir Bank

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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a direction to the Union Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India to issue appropriate notification permitting opening of Shariah Compliant windows in all branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Javed Iqbal Wani observed that the Court cannot enter into the realm of policy decisions of the Government.

The PIL which was filed by Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Forum has prayed for the following reliefs: –

a. That the High Court may be pleased to command the Union Of India to file response and issue necessary notification for introduction of Sharia Compliant Windows as recommended by Deepak Mohanty Committee.

b. That the Court may be pleased to direct the Reserve Bank of India to take immediate steps in these constituent banks including the Jammu and Kashmir Bank limited so as to facilitate Shariah Compliant Windows.

c. That the High Court may kindly be pleased to direct the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited to place to the High Court the entire details of Non Performing Accounts (NPAs) and the steps taken for recovery of the outstanding amount in NPAs as the same is public money which cannot be allowed to be misappropriated either by account holders or by the management of the said bank.

d. That the High Court may further be pleased to direct the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited to take immediate steps for opening of Shariah Compliant windows to accomplish the object of mass level participation in Shariah Banking by the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in particular and other people of the areas wherever the J&K Bank has established in its branches.

The RBI counter-affidavit stated that in 2013, the Finance Ministry had requested it to give its opinion on introduction of Islamic Banking in India. An interdepartmental group was constituted under the chairmanship and one Rajesh Verma to examine its feasibility in India. The said committee vide its report declined to introduce Islamic Banking, however, the Government appointed another committee headed by Deepak Mohanty in the year 2015 to look into the above aspect. The said committee vide its report submitted to the Reserve Bank of India on 28.12.2015 made certain recommendations permitting interest free banking in certain respects but the said report was not accepted by the Government.

According to the Government vide its letter dated 21.03.2017 specifically conveyed its decision that Islamic Banking is not feasible and Shariah Banking Window cannot be opened.

“The above decision of the Government is a policy decision which is beyond the purview of judicial review more particularly in a public interest petition. The Court cannot enter into the realm of policy decisions of the Government. In case petitioner or any person is aggrieved by the above policy decision it may take appropriate steps to challenge it before the proper forum, if advised,” observed the Division Bench while closing the PIL.

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