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Supreme Court asks Centre if bitcoins or any cryptocurrency is legal or not

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to file the latest status report in the Bitcoin Ponzi scam of 80,000 bitcoin worth Rs 2000 crore against the Bhardwaj brothers. The court has also asked the Central government to make its stand clear on Bitcoins and whether it is illegal or not. 

A two-judge Bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant directed the accused to appear before the Investigating Officer of the Enforcement Directorate within two-days and to cooperate with the investigation.

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ASG Aishwarya Bhati, who appeared on behalf of the ED, submitted that all four, Amit Bhardwaj, Ajay Bhardwaj, Vivek Bhardwaj, Mahendra Bhardwaj, have not been cooperating with the investigation as they have not shared any passwords of the system.

Justice Surya Kant questioned what do you mean by cooperation? At the time when FIR was registered, there were doubts about whether the running of the business of Bitcoins whether it is an offence or no offence, it is gambling, whatever it was going on. Today, what is the latest regime?

ASG replied that though the writ petition is challenging the 2016 guideline curiously those guidelines have not been annexed by the petitioners. We have filed them in our counter-affidavit. Ministry has filed a separate counter in which we have filed those guidelines but.

Justice Kant:

“We would like you as Union of India tell us your view regarding bitcoin or any crypto and how do you deal with it today? Do you still treat it as an offence?”

ASG:

“We have placed it on record but kindly appreciate that this is not the case of violating the guidelines, it is the case where 80,000 bitcoins which has a value of Rs 2000 crore wherein 47 FIRs across the country have been filed. There are victims running into thousands of people whose money has been taken.”

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Last year, a number of investors had filed complaints against Amit Bhardwaj. A non-bailable warrant had been issued to arrest the accused. The complaints were registered under Sections 406, 420 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. They had also been charged under the Information Technology Section 66 D and the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Sections 3 and 4.

Cryptocurrencies continue to fascinate Indian investors despite major market fluctuations. The number of crypto users keeps on increasing and so do the crimes in the sector. In 2021, Indian users visited the crypto scam websites over 9 million times.

The most highlighted case was this Rs 2000 crore GainBitcoin Ponzi Scheme scam. In 2018, several complaints have been lodged against Amit Bhardwaj, a businessman who cheated over 8000 people. He lured the investors to give him bitcoins in exchange for higher returns. He even introduced a contract of 18 months offering a 10% return. The accused was arrested in March 2018. Though, in 2019 the Apex Court had granted bail to the accused on medical grounds.

Also read: Supreme Court dismisses plea seeking deployment of Central paramilitary forces in local body polls in West Bengal

Multi-Level Marketing refers to a strategy used by some direct sales companies to sell products and services. MLM encourages existing members to promote and sell their offerings to other individuals and bring on new recruits into the business.

Case Name- Ajay Bhardwaj Vs UOI

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