Supreme Court lifts RBI ban on trading in cryptocurrency

The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted the ban imposed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on trading in cryptocurrency such as the Bitcoin.

The development came as a major relief for the sector, as the RBI ban restricted lenders from facilitating banking transactions for cryptocurrency exchanges and traders.

The top court’s order followed a plea by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) objecting to the RBI ban. The industry body, whose members carried out cryptocurrency exchanges amongst each other, had claimed the move effectively banned legitimate business activity via virtual currencies.

In April 2018, the central bank had tightened rules to discourage the use of virtual currencies such as Bitcoins, prohibiting banks and financial institutions from providing any related services.

The central bank gave entities three months to snap all banking relationships with individuals or businesses dealing in virtual currency. That ban was aimed at “ring-fencing” the country’s financial system from the private virtual currencies, deemed illegal by the government.

Bitcoin – the largest and most popular cryptocurrency – has appreciated by almost half so far this year, to regain the $10,000 mark against the US dollar for the first time since October.

Other major cryptocurrencies which tend to move in correlation with Bitcoin have also gained this year; while Ethereum has more than doubled, Ripple’s XRP is up over 75 per cent.

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

While many regulators around the world have been warning against trading in bitcoins, some have backed it. In 2017, Japan accepted bitcoin as legal currency and even officially recognised Bitcoin exchanges.