The Bitcoin saga of India has finally reached a stage where it is pertinent to answer a very crucial question. The question asks is Bitcoin legal in India? Bitcoins emerged as a preferential investment in India in the year 2013. However, the legality of Bitcoins in India was always in doubts.
This is more so when Perry4Law, the best techno legal firm in Asia, threw its weight against the open and unregulated use of Bitcoins in India. The cyber law trends of India 2013 by ICT law firm Perry4Law has cautioned (PDF) that Bitcoins websites may further face legal actions if they fail to comply with Indian laws in the year 2014.
To say the minimum Bitcoins are governed by many laws that are indirectly applicable to its dealings and transactions in India. For instance, the IT Act 2000 prescribes cyber law due diligence in India and the Internet intermediary liability in India. These cyber laws due diligence and Internet Intermediary requirements squarely apply to use of Bitcoins in India. Further, money laundering, foreign exchange and security dealing laws also apply to Bitcoins dealings and trading in India.
For too long regulatory authorities of India, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), remained moot spectators in the hope that Bitcoins would themselves provide a solution to their regulatory problems. However, this myth of RBI immediately became apparent the moment regulation of Bitcoins in India was demanded due to growing misuse of Bitcoins for illegal activities.
As the pressure mounted, the RBI cautioned users of virtual currencies against various risks including legal risks. Soon after the cautious advisory, the enforcement directorate (ED) swung into action and raided two Bitcoins websites and their offices. ED believes that Bitcoins money can be used for hawala transactions and funding terror operations and this seems to be a legally plausible explanation as well.
As on date the Bitcoins websites in India are under regulatory scanner and are vulnerable to all sorts of legal actions. In fact, Seven Digital Cash LLP is already facing legal risks for dealing in Bitcoins in India.
The Bitcoin entrepreneurs may feel that Bitcoins dealings in India are not illegal but this does not mean that they are legal as well. According to Perry4Law what it means is that till the position is cleared by clear cut regulations and norms, Bitcoin dealings would be regulated by existing laws and regulations. Thus, in their own interest, Bitcoin entrepreneurs must comply with existing laws. Otherwise they may be prosecuted by Indian authorities.