The mainstream media has almost never had an idea of what cryptocurrencies are and what’s going to happen with them. That’s no news. However, the degree to which some established media platforms can be ignorant on the matter is what is becoming the news right now. Moneycontrol – which arguably is one of the most trusted sites in the world of Indian finance – has recently presented one such example of ignorance about cryptocurrencies. In a four-minute long video posted yesterday night two leading journalists of the site (namely Sakshi Batra and Gaurav Choudhury) talked about what’s going to happen with cryptocurrencies in India. The only problem, however, was that they had no idea about what they were saying! You can watch their video below:
Editor’s Take | @sakshibatra18 is in conversation with @gauravchoudhury to know more about all the updates on government’s plan of action on #cryptocurrencies. Read more: https://t.co/VqQKx3QSj8 pic.twitter.com/XQuciQQbUK
— moneycontrol (@moneycontrolcom) October 16, 2018
There’re many things wrong with this video. First of all, Finance Minister in his budget speech didn’t say “dealing with cryptocurrencies is illegal”, as Sakshi is heard saying within first 40 seconds of the video. What FM actually said was that government doesn’t want cryptocurrencies to be used for illegal activities – not that government considers cryptocurrencies illegal. Had they been illegal in government’s viewpoint, by now they would have been completely banned in India and their exchanges shut down by the authorities.
Secondly, Gaurav says that “cryptocurrency exchanges and companies operating in India are illegal”, and “Supreme Court has also made it clear that they’re illegal”. If something is illegal, why would government and court allow it to function? Majority of cryptocurrency companies operating in India are registered under the Companies Act, have been regularly holding Annual General Meetings (AGMs) of board members, and have been filing financial statements with Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). They have also been complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) guidelines or RBI, and they’ve been paying all the taxes required by the law. On what grounds can they be declared illegal? As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the matter is still sub-judice and Court has not made anything illegal, contrary to what Gaurav said in his video.
Thirdly, the RBI circular in April had also not said that cryptocurrencies and companies in their business are illegal (which is what Gaurav can be heard saying while suggesting that SC has declared cryptos illegal). What RBI had actually done was withholding the banks from dealing with companies and individuals in the business of crypto. Everyone knows that (except for these guys). In fact, RBI doesn’t even have the power to make anything illegal – only the Cabinet of Union Government can do so!
Finally, there’re two questions that come to mind based on the video:
- Is holding cryptocurrencies in Indian going to be a punishable offense? But even in that case not everyone holding cryptocurrencies can be told that their Bitcoins are illegal with immediate effect. Law conventionally works in a prospective manner – not retrospective. So those who’re already holding cryptocurrencies before the enforcement of such a law will have to be given some time so they can cash out.
- Secondly, will there be some cryptocurrencies allowed by the government and others not allowed? The answer is again ‘Maybe’. If government launches its own digital currency –referred as Lakshmi coin in the video – then there’s a good chance that other cryptocurrencies may be made illegal. But nobody knows that for now at least.
You can see how facts were drastically misrepresented by Moneycontrol. But the worst thing is that they’ve still not acknowledged what they did despite the CEO of a company and many others in the crypto space calling them out.
I would like to point out some huge discrepancies in your “Editor’s Take”, expected @sakshibatra18 & @gauravchoudhury to come up with proper facts rather than hearsay/sensationalization. @moneycontrolcom https://t.co/6UPRDaA2kl pic.twitter.com/UHSAb1NYRS
— Sohail Merchant (@inkparadox) October 16, 2018
This is certainly not expected from such reputed media houses (Moneycontrol is run by Network 18 Group). But what can be done! The only thing that we can do is pointing out things in the correct manner, which we’ve done with this post.