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Author Topic: India makes ownership of Bitcoin criminal offense - How to respond?  (Read 1341 times)
Vishnu.Reang
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February 01, 2021, 06:02:10 AM
Last edit: February 01, 2021, 07:50:48 AM by Vishnu.Reang
Merited by Royse777 (5), Heisenberg_Hunter (1)
 #1

A few days back, the Indian government announced that they will ban the usage of cryptocurrency in India. The bill is currently in queue to be presented during the budget session (which started today).


This bill was originally formulated by Subhash Chandra Garg in 2018, who was the Finance Secretary of India then. According to the provisions, anyone found holding cryptocurrency will be charged and punished with up to 10 years in jail. Back then, Mr.Garg got embroiled in to some conflict with some of the ruling politicians and was kicked out before he could implement this law. After that the cryptocurrency users were thinking that the government had given up its effort to criminalize cryptocurrency ownership. And that was until a few days back, when they made the announcement about this law.

So what has changed now? Why a law that was rejected in 2018 is now refurbished and tabled again in 2021?

If you take a look at the charts, then it become clear. Bitcoin prices have increased by almost 3 times during the last 12 months. Bitcoin is now worth $624 billion. According to conservative estimates, there are 5 million+ crypto users in India, who holds around $10 billion in cryptocurrency. However, these figures are based only on the stats from India-based cryptocurrency exchanges such as Zebpay and WazirX. The majority of the Indian users don't use these exchanges, and instead rely on P2P platforms. So the real number will be much higher.

The current government, which is headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party is essentially run by a few corporate houses, especially those owned by the Ambani/Adani nexus. Ever since 2014 (when BJP came to power), these corporate houses have monopolized various sectors in the Indian economy. The strategy used is very simple. First destroy the competition and then rollout their own product and capture the monopoly. Take the case of the telecom sector. Established brands such as Idea and Airtel were destroyed before Ambani came up with his Jio brand. And how can they let cryptocurrency out of their control? Since it is impossible to control a decentralized asset such as Bitcoin, they have decided to ban it. Once the vacuum is created, the pro-government corporates will come up with their own version of the cryptocurrency (which will obviously be 100% pre-mined).

Now what are the options that we have?

Nowhere else in the world, ownership of cryptocurrency has been made a criminal offense. There are certain countries such as China, which are having trading ban on cryptocurrency. But even they are not crazy enough to jail individuals just for storing a code in their computers. If the ban is implemented, then the government will give at the most 3 months time for the users to get rid of their coins.

Those who don't want to sell their coins immediately have very few options. They can try to travel to countries such as Qatar, which are having visa-waiver for Indian nationals. Before the limit expires, the individuals can attempt to get a work visa or investment visa. Another option is proxy holding. You can transfer your coins to a foreign national and ask him to hold the coins for you. But this is a very risky step. Right now I can't think about any other option apart from these.

Impact for the users

The existing cryptocurrency users will be adversely effected. With institutional investment of cryptocurrency gaining pace, it is expected that investment in Bitcoin would give good returns in the near future. But even those who were aiming for long-term investment needs to sell their coins immediately. And this can negatively affect the users on multiple fronts. If you sell your coins in a gradual manner, it is possible to reduce the tax cut to 10% or 20%. But when you sell all of your holdings at once, the top-most tax slab will be applicable for most of the users and they will be forced to pay 43% tax on their holdings.

And in the near future we can expect worldwide adoption of BTC. Eventually, Bitcoin will become legal in India once more. But the Indian users will be forced to purchase BTC at that point at much higher prices and they will lose out to users from the rest of the world.  

Response from the users

With a user base of at least 5 million, the cryptocurrency users in India are not some insignificant group. They are feeling helpless, because of the lack of unity. It is worthwhile to note that at least one opposition politician (Milind Deora of the Congress Party) has come out in support of Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency users in India needs to unite and take a political stance against those who are hostile to the idea of BTC. State elections are due in four crucial states in the next 2-3 months (West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam). Bitcoiners need to use their votes effectively, in order to defeat the political factions that are in favor of the Bitcoin ban. Tactical voting needs to be undertaken.

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February 01, 2021, 06:13:10 AM
 #2

WOW, that what I call harsh legislation!

Are you sure about making the ownership a criminal offense?! I read the news in Coindesk - https://www.coindesk.com/india-would-ban-private-cryptocurrencies-under-proposed-legislation, and they didn't mention anything about criminal offenses.

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February 01, 2021, 06:16:08 AM
 #3

Don's panic! Nothing has been finalised yet. What we are seeing is that the crypto matter will be discussed in the upcoming parliament session. While it's most likely to be negative because majority of Indian politicians are uneducated and they simply don't want to understand what crypto is. However, Passing a law is one thing and enforcing it is another thing! If any country wants to achieve blanket ban on cryptos, internet will have to be stopped! So it is easier said than done! Just wait and watch!

I would agree with you on the voting matter! India needs to choose educated ministers. The current government is regressive in nature and sees everything new as a threat. That outlook can only be changed with education and young blood. I think India needs to choose young leaders more! 

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February 01, 2021, 06:19:55 AM
 #4

If this legislation get into becoming a bill then it will have high negative impact on the users of the already exiting cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, for the government to issue a digital currency on it own means it will be highly centralized and the freedom of it users will be taken away. Well I don't think the Indian government will want to fight a global trend such as cryptocurrency.
I wouldn't agree that it will have a negative impact, in my country, most regulations only have their fangs sharpened for 3 months tops and after that, the regulations are muzzled, meaning that this will only be enforced for awhile until it dies down. If the case in my country is the same as in India which is obviously larger than mine, I do not think that the regulations will be enforced that much.


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February 01, 2021, 06:26:33 AM
 #5

But the part you shared doesn't even mention bitcoin, it uses the term "private cryptocurrencies" which is ambiguous wording for a legal document and it is also not talking about any kind of criminal offense. It also mentioned "exceptions" which could mean bitcoin.
From my point of view this is yet another country that is going to ban majority of altcoins more specifically ICO tokens that have been scamming people for some time now and that won't be a new thing.

I wouldn't read too much into this until I can read more about the details of the proposal and not some ambiguous thing.

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February 01, 2021, 06:31:36 AM
 #6

WOW, that what I call harsh legislation!

Are you sure about making the ownership a criminal offense?! I read the news in Coindesk - https://www.coindesk.com/india-would-ban-private-cryptocurrencies-under-proposed-legislation, and they didn't mention anything about criminal offenses.

This is a refurbished version of the 2018 bill. Back then there was a provision for 10 years jail term, for anyone found to be holding cryptocurrency. I don't think that they have changed the provisions (apart from a few minor cosmetic corrections). To confirm, we need to wait until the bill is presented in the lower house of the parliament (which may take a few weeks more).

Don's panic! Nothing has been finalised yet. What we are seeing is that the crypto matter will be discussed in the upcoming parliament session. While it's most likely to be negative because majority of Indian politicians are uneducated and they simply don't want to understand what crypto is. However, Passing a law is one thing and enforcing it is another thing! If any country wants to achieve blanket ban on cryptos, internet will have to be stopped! So it is easier said than done! Just wait and watch!

Obviously it is very difficult to enforce, but with such harsh punishment provisions no one wants to end up on the wrong side of the law.

@pooya87, in a communication sent to the Supreme Court of India in 2020, the government clarified that by the term "private cryptocurrency" they mean all the cryptocurrencies that are not controlled by the Reserve Bank of India.

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February 01, 2021, 06:45:39 AM
 #7

"To create a framework for the creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India."
It is clear that the Indian government wants to ban cryptocurrencies just for the sake of promoting their own CBDC.Also they don't plan to ban the blockchain technology,just the cryptocurrenices.
We may witness the same thing happening in other countries,when their central banks launch their CBDCs.
However,I don't believe that the Indian central bank digital currency will be launched anytime soon.
The only way to respond to such bill is to hide your private keys and use crypto exchange platforms located outside of India.




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February 01, 2021, 07:12:33 AM
 #8

Another option is proxy holding. You can transfer your coins to a foreign national and ask him to hold the coins for you. But this is a very risky step. Right now I can't think about any other option apart from these.
You have a wallet and you know the seed. Seeds are not in any digital device. Maybe you memorized the words or left clues in your house or anywhere that you only know what those means. How would anyone in the world will know the key and prove that you are holding bitcoin?

I see nothing to be worried when holding bitcoin in fact if you do p2p trade then there are no need to touch any exchange or government agency. You are anonymous.

Quote
especially those owned by the Ambani/Adani nexus.
I thought India is a big country with diversity but you are saying the economy is controlled by those Ambani/Adani company/guys? This will be a shame. Of course, they will not like things that could risk their control in everything.

Anyway, I think no one can stop a bitcoiner if they know how to practice their privacy.

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February 01, 2021, 07:26:39 AM
 #9

10 years? That seems to be overly extreme for merely owning an asset lol.

Anyway, if you're from India, you pretty much have 2 choices.

  • Simply sell it and wait for the illegalization to be lifted.
  • Sell your holdings that has ties to you(exchanges, etc), and though I'm not telling anyone to commit crime, people could still simply accept bitcoin through anonymous services and such and simply hold them through their non-custodial wallet. Of course, people should be really cautious as a simple mistake could get them caught.
  • Optional: move out of India lol.

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February 01, 2021, 07:55:58 AM
 #10

Did they implement the rule or it is just another speculation that the government is planning to criminalize. When i searched regarding this all i can see is proposed regulation and it says it might reveal the details in the budget today and they are planning their version of digital currency. The only precaution you need to take is that the government will come after the registered users in exchanges that are functioning in India other than that there is not way they can target users holding the coins.


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February 01, 2021, 08:20:19 AM
 #11

Why India bans private cryptocurrencies to support government solutions. The official currency will give the country more control to limit foreign influence, but it will also provide the kind of stability associated with conventional currencies. The prices of Bitcoin and similar currencies still tend to fluctuate wildly and are more susceptible to manipulation. In theory, India can accept pure digital currencies without digital traps.
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February 01, 2021, 08:48:59 AM
 #12

Private cryptocurrencies? Does Bitcoin count? It isn't private from what I know, so I guess it shouldn't count as one? Not to mention that it seems like India is trying to develop its own digital currency, hence why it's trying to kick out all owned cryptocurrencies that are being circulated inside the country. They're basically trying to let the market use their currency instead of others, though there would be exceptions as they said. I'd reckon that as long as the community shows avid support for Bitcoin and properly state it to the government, they'd make an exception to it since really, if they put out a shtcoin as an exception and Bitcoin as not? Then hell, that'd be quite hilarious.

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February 01, 2021, 09:21:37 AM
 #13

10 years? That seems to be overly extreme for merely owning an asset lol.

Anyway, if you're from India, you pretty much have 2 choices.

  • Simply sell it and wait for the illegalization to be lifted.
  • Sell your holdings that has ties to you(exchanges, etc), and though I'm not telling anyone to commit crime, people could still simply accept bitcoin through anonymous services and such and simply hold them through their non-custodial wallet. Of course, people should be really cautious as a simple mistake could get them caught.
  • Optional: move out of India lol.

For most of the ordinary cryptocurrency users in India, there is only one option and that is to sell their holdings immediately without any consideration about the returns or tax implications. Those with large size holdings will be worst hit, as they need to shell out almost half of the returns as tax. Moving out of India is an option that the richer investors can consider. Many of the Caribbean nations will provide you with a passport in exchange of a donation amounting to $100,000 to $250,000. But for the 99% of the investors who are unable to afford that, the options are limited.



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February 01, 2021, 09:47:00 AM
 #14

whether the Indian government does not conduct a study before deciding...
There is no 100% accurate reason to make Bitcoin an excuse to punish someone. there is a lot of potentials that can be felt by Bitcoin owners in India, especially in this time of crisis. I hope that bitcoin owners fight for their rights there.

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February 01, 2021, 10:14:15 AM
 #15

whether the Indian government does not conduct a study before deciding...
There is no 100% accurate reason to make Bitcoin an excuse to punish someone. there is a lot of potentials that can be felt by Bitcoin owners in India, especially in this time of crisis. I hope that bitcoin owners fight for their rights there.

Last time also they came up with some stupid law. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) banned the usage of bank accounts for the trading of Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency in 2018. Some of the local exchanges filed an appeal with the supreme court of India. The problem is that the legal process in India is extremely slow and it can take many years to get a judgement. Anyway, in 2020, the supreme court said that the ban by RBI was unconstitutional.

The difference this time is that it is the government which is coming up with the law and not the RBI. If the bill gets approved by both the houses of the parliament, then it gets in to a law. Under such circumstances, even the supreme court will not show any sympathy towards the cryptocurrency users.

BTW, for the last two days, I have noticed a massive campaign by ruling party supporters in social media, where they are painting all cryptocurrency users as tax evaders and criminals. From the pattern, it looks like a well organized and well planned strategy for me.

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February 01, 2021, 10:15:45 AM
Merited by Vishnu.Reang (2)
 #16

The idea of criminalizing holding any sort of cryptocurrencies was the mad brainchild of Subhash Garg when he came up with that first draft. I don't think they will go to this extent.
Unfortunately, everything at present is being decided by a regressive government aided by a media truly gone mad. They are always fanning the flames of chauvinism because the thing that gets the most TRP in today's India is a fake display of nationality and making everything about it.

Farmers protest become secessionist movements; A murder becomes a case of snatching civilization from Bollywood; An investigation into a manipulative journalist becomes "foreign powers" trying to suppress Indians through Congress.

If this becomes political, Bitcoiners WILL lose. So while you concern is legitimate and we all need to rally, I would advice against making this about elections or anything political.

The best option is to follow the route of law and basic human right to choose. The Supreme Court has enough knowledge to judge this. As Civil society, we have to support the nascent industry and make it about financial freedom. Making it about Modi's politics or crony capitalism of the ruling party will only lead to a quick suppression using media sensationalization.

UPDATE:
--snip--
BTW, for the last two days, I have noticed a massive campaign by ruling party supporters in social media, where they are painting all cryptocurrency users as tax evaders and criminals. From the pattern, it looks like a well organized and well planned strategy for me.
LOL, I think we posted at almost the same time. If it goes this way, then God save our Sats. If the ruling party's "nationalists" are onto it, this will be difficult.

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February 01, 2021, 02:42:54 PM
 #17

If this legislation get into becoming a bill then it will have high negative impact on the users of the already exiting cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, for the government to issue a digital currency on it own means it will be highly centralized and the freedom of it users will be taken away. Well I don't think the Indian government will want to fight a global trend such as cryptocurrency.

Since when has anything in India ever been good for people? I know that is not a good thing to say and disrespects all the good progress made over the years but I guess when it's come to money and crypto and finance, we're still always falling short on helping the people with what they really need. Good thing though is that crypto can't be stopped by anything in India, so we just go quietly p2p.



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Rainbot
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February 01, 2021, 03:16:25 PM
 #18

10 years? That seems to be overly extreme for merely owning an asset lol.

Anyway, if you're from India, you pretty much have 2 choices.

  • Simply sell it and wait for the illegalization to be lifted.
  • Sell your holdings that has ties to you(exchanges, etc), and though I'm not telling anyone to commit crime, people could still simply accept bitcoin through anonymous services and such and simply hold them through their non-custodial wallet. Of course, people should be really cautious as a simple mistake could get them caught.
  • Optional: move out of India lol.

Moving out of India permanently is the best choice anyone can make at this point if time! Canada and Portugal have opened their immigration channel so I think educated Indians can looks for these options. India is pretty much living under a dictatorship since 2014 where the freedom of speech is brutally killed by the government. The government is trying to poke their smelly nose on every personl matter of their citizen and even trying to sell off the agricultural sector to the corporates!

I think leaving India permanently is the best decision anyone can make, especially people with job experience and professional degrees.

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February 02, 2021, 03:07:10 AM
 #19

Moving out of India permanently is the best choice anyone can make at this point if time! Canada and Portugal have opened their immigration channel so I think educated Indians can looks for these options. India is pretty much living under a dictatorship since 2014 where the freedom of speech is brutally killed by the government. The government is trying to poke their smelly nose on every personl matter of their citizen and even trying to sell off the agricultural sector to the corporates!

I think leaving India permanently is the best decision anyone can make, especially people with job experience and professional degrees.

Do you really think that it is that simple? There are 5 to 10 million cryptocurrency users in India, and out of them 10% maybe active users who trade in cryptocurrency very frequently. Other countries are restricting immigration levels (especially that of skilled immigrants), perhaps with a few exceptions such as Canada and Australia. And even if some of them manage to immigrate, there is no guarantee that these new destinations will remain pro-Bitcoin for too long.


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February 02, 2021, 03:25:10 AM
Merited by LoyceV (6)
 #20

This is a nice briefing from India budget 2021 and I saw the impact on the Indian market yesterday when bitcoin crashed couple of thousand USD here while the international market price was constant. I was surprised to that but that meant only one thing to me, and thats buy

Criminal offence? Well it will take years for any government authority to track you down because they are not having proper infra or IT support really. They have to handle more serious issue within the country apart from the crypto currency use.

I have seen rare cases where crypto currency trader account was ceased by banks or feds. If anyway they did, by it's nature they will be released on the nominal bail application.

Please note that we have no solid rules and regulations which states it's offence. Court order doesn't matter as long as it gets pen downed on a notice in the public interest.

India tried this stuff earlier, it wont be a success. It's a country of farmers not the digital coin owners. India will have to overcome the basic problems first so that they can go rogue on crypto holders.

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