India has never legally banned Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies but traditionally employed a hands off approach towards them. They have always maintained that they are not currently versed with the technology required to monitor digital currencies and would take sufficient time before formulating a framework that enables them to do so. With increasing Bitcoin volumes on Indian exchanges and circulating petitions to legalize Bitcoin, the Indian Government has now been put in a position where inventing a framework to regulate Bitcoin has now become a necessity. Let’s look into how Indian Government is planning to formulate the framework:
The perfect set-up:
In November 2016, when the Prime Minister of India banned higher denomination currency notes and took a good couple of months before bringing new denomination into circulation. During this period, the government’s initiative has been to motivate the populous into shifting more towards digital payments. Digital payments application companies that enable micropayments like Paytm and Freecharge have enabled this transition and helped for more centralized regulation of transactions. However, a byproduct of this move was the rise of Bitcoin transactions within and in and out of the country. The BTCINR trading prices were over 20% than the premium depicting the boost the cryptocurrency received during this period. This has laid down the foundation for consistent adoption of Bitcoin in India and forced the government into finding ways to regulate it.
The proposed committee:
The Inter-disciplinary committee established by the Indian Government includes the Central Bank, prominent members from the ministry of Finance and other prominent financial bodies to delve into the framework requirements of Bitcoin regulation. Earlier in February, India’s Bitcoin ecosystem consisting of young companies and Bitcoin businesses established a private self-regulatory body to proactively prevent illegal use of the cryptocurrency. The formed government committee would produce a report on Bitcoin basing on the underlying technology, its usage in India and regulations across the world. If India goes down the path of legalizing Bitcoin, it would be a valuable addition to the Bitcoin adoption space. The Asian Bitcoin ecosystem is already enriched with Japan and Philippines embracing the cryptocurrency and giving it a legal status. With Russia and India looking forward to regulate the cryptocurrency, things seem very positive for the cryptocurrency.
Task order for the committee:
The announcement from the Indian Government had the following excerpt:
“The circulation of Virtual Currencies which are also known as Digital/Crypto Currencies has been a cause of concern….Reserve Bank of India [the country’s central bank] had also cautioned the users, holders and traders of Virtual currencies (VCs) including Bitcoins, about the potential financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks that they are exposing themselves to.”
The task order laid out for the committee in the next three months are as follows:
- Checking on the present status of Virtual Currencies both in India and globally
- Examining the existing global regulatory and legal rules of compliance governing Virtual Currencies
- Suggest measures for dealing with such Virtual Currencies in areas such as consumer protection, money laundering, etc; and
- Examine any other matter related to Virtual Currencies which may be relevant.