The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the Narendra Modi government's notification to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes; thus helping it to surpass a major legal barrier.
However, the apex court told the government to reduce people's inconvenience, saying "you cannot have surgical strike" against them.
"You (Centre) can have a surgical strike against black money but you cannot have surgical strike against the people of the country," a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud said, pointing to the long queues at banks and ATMs.
"Carpenters, maids, vegetable sellers are dependent on cash. Are you capable of reducing their trauma? Your aim is to wipe out black money but people are traumatised standing in queues for hours doing nothing," the bench said.
"They (Centre) call it surgical strike. You (Kapil Sibal appearing for a petitioner) call it carpet bombing. The object of such measures is against the people hoarding cash,"it said.
While observing that fighting the black money menace was a "laudable" step, it asked the Centre to "consider taking steps to ease the pain of the common people" and also consider raising the limit of cash withdrawals.
"Why can't it be raised to a reasonable level so that there is less number of people standing in the queue," the bench said, adding that the inconvenience part has to be looked into.
The government told the apex court that the situation was being constantly monitored at the highest level and just now, it has been decided that the banks would allow from today the withdrawal of Rs 50,000 per current account per week and the facilities would also be available to companies.
The apex court did not issue notices to the Centre or the RBI and asked them file a comprehensive affidavit detailing steps taken so far and other proposed measures to ameliorate the harassment and inconvenience caused to citizens due to demonetisation of the high-value currency notes.
The government, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, came fully prepared to defend its ambitious step aimed at curbing black money and counterfeit currency used in financing terror and extremist violence saying the target was to "catch the big fish" which the previous governments could not do in last 50 years.
The bench concluded the day's hearing by asking the Centre and the RBI to be open to suggestions from various stakeholders and posted the matter for further hearing on November 25 of four PILs questioning the November 8 demonetisation notification.