Delhi High CourtHearing a public interest litigation claiming that the surcharge levied on credit and debit card transactions was “illegal” and “discriminatory”, Delhi High Court has sought the view of Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of India, reported PTI.

Case No. W.P. (C) No. 10838 of 2016
Case Title Amit Sahni v. Union of India & Anr.
Next Date January 4, 2017

A bench comprising of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal while hearing the PIL filed by advocate Amit Sahni, ordered:

The respondents (ministry and RBI) shall get instruction before the next date of hearing, January 4, 2017.

Sahni had earlier in April this year filed a similar petition [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 2894 of 2016] contending that charging of surcharge for payments made through debit cards/credit cards is not only illegal but also discriminatory. Sahni had further requested the Court to take appropriate steps for framing guidelines so as to prevent the charging of the alleged unlawful and discriminatory surcharge on the transactions through debit cards/credit cards.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Rohini had on May 17, 2016, issued a notice to Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India. Thereafter on August 19, 2016, bench comprising of Chief Justice Rohini and Justice Sehgal disposed of the petition after counsel for RBI submitted before it that the issue sought to be raised by Sahni was already under consideration by the Ministry of Finance and the RBI and that the grounds raised by the Sahni in the petition would also be taken into consideration while taking a decision on the said issue. Bench ordered:

The  writ  petition  is  accordingly  disposed  of  with  a  direction  to  the respondents to consider the contents of this writ petition by treating the same as a representation and take an appropriate decision in accordance with law.  The decision  taken  shall  be  communicated  to  the  petitioner  and in  case  the  issue sought  to  be  raised  is  not  fully redressed,  the  petitioner  is  at  liberty  to  file  a fresh writ petition.

In his fresh PIL, Sahni has submitted that the issue raised in the petition almost affects everyone, who operate bank accounts and the same was in the welfare of the nation at large as well. He submitted in his petition that the “unlawful, unequal and arbitrary treatment is visible on the payment of petrol charges through credit and debit cards”.

Sahni has alleged that the Ministry of Finance and RBI are “responsible for making rules/guidelines and for monitoring banks across the country”. He has once again urged the authorities to frame guidelines so as to prevent “unlawful” and “discriminatory” surcharge being levied on debit and credit card transactions.

Petition further submits:

The said the practice has not only caused discrimination but also promoted circulation of black money across the country. The indifferent or unequal treatment given in case payment is made through credit/or in cash is arbitrary and against the equality of law, as enshrined in the Constitution of India. [IANS]

In February this year, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given its approval for introduction of steps for promotion of payments through cards and digital means. One of the “Short Term Steps for Promotion of Payments through Card/ Digital Means” which had to be implemented within one year, are suggested included:

Government Departments/ Organizations/ Central Public Sector Undertakings/Anchor Networks shall take steps to (a) withdraw convenience fee/service charge/surcharge on customers who prefer to make card/ digital payments for essential commodities, utility service providers, petrol pumps, gas agencies, railway tickets /IRCTC, tax department, museums, monuments etc.; (b) take appropriate steps to bear MDR cost like other merchants; and (c) build acceptance infrastructure (POS/ Mobile POS terminals) for card/ digital payments at all collection centres.