Mere dealing in cryptocurrency not an offence, says HC & grants bail to two

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Cuttack: The Orissa high court has ruled that mere dealing in cryptocurrency cannot be treated as illegal and hence cannot be treated as an offence under the Odisha Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act.
The ruling came recently while granting bail to two persons accused of duping investors by operating a ponzi/multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme in the name of a fake cryptocurrency company.
“Cryptocurrency is not money within the meaning of Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act and the investment made by the general public in cryptocurrency cannot partake the nature of deposit within the meaning of OPID Act,” the single-judge bench of Justice Sasikhanta Mishra observed.
The accused had allegedly lured individuals to invest in a cryptocurrency called ‘Yes World Token’ by creating their own trust wallet and to get higher returns by building a network of members. The investors were incentivised to recruit more participants in exchange for interest or bonuses corresponding to the number of new members enlisted.
However, Justice Mishra held the accused can only be said to have attempted to convince the public to trade in cryptocurrency. “There is nothing on record to show that they had dishonestly induced any person to deliver any property to them. In other words, there is no evidence whatsoever of any money being transferred from any person to the accused. The methodology adopted being person to platform, it cannot be said that the petitioners had cheated any person particularly in view of the fact that any amount invested by any person remains secure in his or her trust wallet,” he said.
“Thus, the offence under Section 420 does not appear, prima facie, to be made out. There is no evidence that any documents, records, etc, were forged, manipulated, manufactured, etc, so as to attract the offences under Section 467/468/471 of IPC,” Justice Mishra further observed.

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