Crypto Bill revamped, but nothing on NFTs yet: FM in Parliament

Crypto Bill revamped, but nothing on NFTs yet: FM in Parliament
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman   |  Photo Credit: Reuters
30 Nov, 2021

The cryptocurrency Bill that is expected to be tabled during the ongoing winter session has been largely changed and revamped from before, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha earlier today. 

“Yes, there was a Bill proposed last time. But, subsequently, there were other dimensions (to cryptocurrency) happening in real time, we thought it was important to bring all of this into the Bill. It has been reworked, and in a way, this upcoming Bill is a new Bill – where we have incorporated all the work done on the previous one,” Sitharaman said

The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 is expected to discourage the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as currencies with intrinsic values. Yesterday, answering questions on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman clarified that the government has no intention to recognise Bitcoin as a “currency”. 

During today’s session, Sitharaman also offered clarifications regarding “banning” of “misleading” advertisements by crypto exchanges and startups in India, as well as on NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Talking about the advertisements, Sitharaman said, “The guidelines and regulations put forth by the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI), which governs all advertisements, are being studied. This is being done to ensure that we can take a decision on handling these issues.” 

When asked about whether the government is considering an independent legal framework to regulate the realm of NFTs in India, Sitharaman said that the government has not taken any such decision – and such a framework is not in the works at the moment. 

The crypto regulation Bill is also expected to give way to India’s centrally controlled digital currency, so far known as the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The government has reportedly sought to clamp down on the open trade of “private” cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana and so on. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while making his first comments on cryptos on 18 November had stated that the space must be regulated closely to cut down on illicit activities conducted by transacting through cryptocurrencies. 

However, it remains to be seen exactly what the government’s crypto Bill eventually proposes. Sitharaman in an interaction with CNBC TV 18 on 5 March has said that there will not be a blanket ban on all things crypto in India, and suggested that blockchain technologies may be adopted by the government as deemed fit. 

For a full lowdown on all regulations and legal decisions that have taken place in the cryptocurrency space in India, read our timeline here.