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India – Ravi Somani V. Union Of India.

16 June, 2014

 

Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – India – Dispute Resolution

 

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi recently discussed and decided on the fairness and constitutionality of re-striking Commemorative Coins that had already been minted in olden times. This article discusses issues put forth before the Hon’ble Court in the case of Ravi Somani v. Union of India and Another (WP (C) 2667/2013 & CM APPL. 5044/2013) and the judgment passed thereon.

 

Issues

 
The main issue put forth before the Hon’ble Court was whether the India Government Mint (IGM) Kolkata could reissue Commemorative coins with exactly same specifications as that of earlier struck commemorative coins or the same was not permissible in law?

 

Facts

 
IGM, Kolkata, a unit of Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL) published an advertisement in The Times of India on March 31, 2013 inviting applications for bookings of Commemorative Coins on the occasion of the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekanada and 60 years birth anniversary of IGM, Kolkata along with three other Commemorative Coins of Sant Tukaram, hundred years birth anniversary of Dr. S.P. Mukherjee and birth centenary of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

 

The Commemorative Coins of Sant Tukaram, hundred years birth anniversary of Dr. S.P. Mukherjee and Birth Centenary of Lal Bahadur Shastri had been issued earlier to commemorate the respective memorable events. These coins were now being reissued on the basis of administrative approval of the competent authority, SPMCIL and to meet the public demand of these coins.

 

Mr. Somani, a coin collector, who claimed to be collecting Commemorative Coins since 1964, since the time IGM had started minting these coins, took objection to the reminting of these coins, on the grounds that the commemorative coins cannot be re-struck and if allowed to do so the originally minted coins would lose their value. To seek some relief in the matter he proceeded to file a Writ Petition against the Union of India and the IGM before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.

 

Arguments Advanced By Mr. Somani

 
Mr. Somani argued that the Commemorative coins were being printed for the second time with exactly the same specifications as were minted in the years 2001, 2002 and 2004. The only difference was the enhancement of the price.

 
He submitted that the Commemorative coins are not to be minted regularly or consistently as they are collected for a special purpose and for being scarce and appreciating in value over time, and if the same coin is printed again after almost 10 years, it will carry no value and the coins minted earlier will also lose its value. He contended that if the same commemorative coin is allowed to be minted again the very meaning of the word “commemorative” would become otiose.

 

He further argued that there was absolutely no reason to issue the commemorative coins in the name of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Sant Tukaram and Lal Bahadur Shastri since their centenary was celebrated about 10 years back. The government had earlier released these coins ten years back at a cheaper rate and were issuing the same coins at a higher price. This would indicate that IGM had started a profit oriented business in the name of Commemorative Coins.

 

His last argument was that commemorative is issued by various countries all over the world in the honour of their people or to celebrate an event but these commemorative coins are never reissued.

 

He prayed to the High Court to declare that the issuance of the same coins with same specification and date is unjust, unfair, malafide and unconstitutional and to further issue a Writ, Order or Direction quashing the impugned advertisement given in the Times of India dated March 31, 2013.

 

Arguments On Behalf Of IGM

 
We represented IGM and on its behalf contended that minting of Commemorative coins falls within the ambit of the Coinage Act, 2011 and all provisions of the said Act had been complied with. It was also submitted that Commemorative coins are always treated as special coins and these coins did not lose their value and credential with the passage of time. IGM submitted that the commemorative coins are re-struck to meet public demand and their decision was based on the opinion given by the Ministry of Law.

 

IGM further submitted that a writ petition can only be filed against the State for seeking redressal against its actions which are a violation of law and Mr. Somani in his petition had not pointed out what law, if any, had been violated by IGM.

 

IGM then prayed to the High Court of Delhi to quash the writ petition as Mr. Somani had filed the petition for personal gain and there was no ground for violation of any fundamental rights or larger public policy or any statute and therefore, Mr. Somani is not entitled to any relief claimed as this case is outside the scope and ambit of writ jurisdiction.

 

Conclusion

 

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, agreed with the arguments put forth by the IGM and decided the case in its favour. High Court opined that because of re-minting/ re-striking of Commemorative coins, Mr. Somani can only allege that he suffered a financial loss and cannot make that a ground for declaring that issuance of a commemorative coin with the same specification and date is unjust, unfair, mala fide and unconstitutional or illegal.

 

The High Court further held that neither any bar nor any prohibition has been found on restriking of commemorative coins with the same specifications as the original in the Coinage Act, 2011. Also, some of the commemorative coins sought to be issued are in the name of political and social leaders who are icons of this country and, therefore, it cannot be said that coins in their names can be minted only on their birth centenary

 

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For further information, please contact:

 

Vikas Goel, Partner, Rajani Singhania & Partners
[email protected]

 

Medha Shah, Rajani Singhania & Partners 

[email protected]

 
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