New Delhi: Supreme Court on Friday sought clarity from the government on whether Bitcoins are illegal in the country or not. This was in connection with the GainBitcoin scam which involved alleged fraud of 87,000 Bitcoins, valued at Rs 20,000 crore.
It is important to note that the question was raised during oral observations by the Court and no formal order has been given to the Centre to come back with a response.
A bench, comprising of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, was hearing a plea filed by one of the accused in the scam - Ajay Bhardwaj - who sought to quash charges against him.
Justice Surya Kant said, "You (Government) have to make the stand (on Bitcoin) clear on whether Bitcoins are illegal or not."
In reply, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, said, "The validity is not in question here. It is a scam and they are the accused. This involves 87,000 bitcoins and the accused is not cooperating with the investigation."
The bench continued the interim protection from arrest to the accused Ajay Bhardwaj for another 4 weeks. The next hearing will be after four weeks, it observed.
Ajay Bhardwaj is the brother of Amit Bhardwaj, the alleged mastermind behind the GainBitcoin scam. He was arrested in March 2018 and later granted bail by the Supreme Court on April 3, 2019.
Amit Bhardwaj had founded a slew of companies and was infamous for running GainBitcoin fraud, an MLM (multi-level-marketing) scheme that promised "10 per cent" returns.
He orchestrated a marketing scam and lured investors to give him Bitcoins in exchange for higher returns.
Amit Bhardwaj had defaulted on his promise and later fled the country. Police had arrested him and seven others in March 2018. He died of cardiac arrest last month.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had first issued summons to Amit Bhardwaj and the other accused -- Hemant Bhope, Akash Sancheti, and others -- on January 1, 2021.
Since then, multiple summons has been issued to Amit Bhardwaj, his brothers Ajay Bhardwaj and Vivek Bhardwaj as well as their mother Bimla Devi.