- What is cryptocurrency?
- Recent developments
- Considerations for Regulation
Globally, cryptocurrency has become a ground-breaking financial tool that is upending established monetary institutions and financial markets. The emergence of cryptocurrencies has been closely watched in India, a nation renowned for its dynamic regulatory climate, which is currently developing a legal framework to handle the particular problems and opportunities they provide.
Cryptocurrency: What is it?
Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual money that run on decentralized ledger technology, most notably blockchain, and use encryption for security. Among the most well-known cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. To monitor the bitcoin market, peer-to-peer internet protocol is employed. A hash or encrypted string of data called a cryptocurrency stands in for one unit of money.
Timeline of cryptocurrency in India-
- In 2018, the RBI forbade banks and other regulated businesses from supporting cryptocurrency transactions. Satoshi Nakamoto founded Bitcoin in 2009. In 2019, it was suggested that all private cryptocurrencies be outlawed.
- The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill was submitted in 2021.
- In 2020, the SC ruled that the prohibition on cryptocurrency trade was unconstitutional. This would forbid private digital currencies and favor the RBI-backed currency. Before banning cryptocurrency trade, mining, and issuance, a 3- to 6-month grace period was granted.
- Finally, cryptocurrencies are legal in India even if they are unregulated.
Characteristics of Cryptocurrency-
- Anonymous: You can lend, sell, purchase, or borrow using cryptocurrencies without providing your name, credit report, or even a bank.
- Highly secure: All records of when it was created, sent, or received are kept in a type of public, open-access huge digital book, keeping it honest. It can be used anywhere in the world and is not susceptible to theft or seizure.
- Transferring money with some coins is less expensive and quicker than doing so with credit or other traditional methods (measured in a currency like dollars). This means that sending someone cryptocurrency, which can be turned into fiat currency, is less expensive than using a check or wire transfer.
- Illegal and very unstable: Cryptocurrency isn't simply employed for bad things, though. In fact, it has lost favor on the black market mostly as a result of its price fluctuations and other factors.
- No physical form: Unlike paper money, cryptocurrencies do not have a physical form and are not issued by a central bank. It is still conceivable, and several nations are striving to create a cryptocurrency that functions as a substitute for their own fiat currency.
- Decentralized: Cryptocurrencies frequently employ decentralized control, in contrast to digital money issued by a central bank. If a cryptocurrency is created or coined before being released, or if it is issued by a single issuer, it is said to be centralized. When a cryptocurrency is created with decentralized governance, it uses distributed ledger technology, which frequently takes the form of a blockchain and serves as a public record of financial transactions.
- Using blockchain technology to create a single source of truth for the data that is chronological. A blockchain is a database that holds encrypted data blocks and connects them. Digital assets are distributed rather than copied or transferred, creating a permanent record of the asset. The asset is completely transparent to the public and has comprehensive real-time access because of its decentralized structure. A clear trail of revisions ensures the document's integrity and promotes trust in the asset. the open ledger and built-in security characteristics of blockchain.
Initial Warnings: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country's central bank, issued several warnings and circulars between 2013 and 2017, cautioning users, investors, and financial institutions about the risks associated with cryptocurrencies. These warnings were primarily based on concerns related to money laundering, tax evasion, and consumer protection.
RBI Circular 2018: The most significant regulatory action came in April 2018 when the RBI issued a circular that prohibited banks and financial institutions from providing services related to cryptocurrencies. This circular effectively severed the banking relationships of cryptocurrency exchanges in India. In the landmark case, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) v. Reserve Bank of India, the IAMAI challenged the RBI circular. The Supreme Court of India, in March 2020, declared the circular unconstitutional, emphasizing that the RBI had not demonstrated how cryptocurrencies posed a threat to the banking system. This decision was a significant victory for the cryptocurrency community and marked the beginning of a more nuanced approach to regulation.
Proposed Bills: Following the IAMAI case, the Indian government introduced several bills in Parliament to regulate cryptocurrencies, including the "Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021" and the "Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019."
These bills proposed various measures, including the creation of a central bank-backed digital currency (CBDC), the prohibition of private cryptocurrencies, and a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency exchanges. However, as of the knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, these bills had not been enacted into law, leaving the regulatory landscape uncertain.
Potential Licensing and Regulation: The government might consider introducing a licensing system for cryptocurrency exchanges and service providers. Such a system would enable better monitoring, adherence to Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations, and consumer protection.
Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC): The RBI has been exploring the creation of a CBDC, which could complement the existing fiat currency system. This digital rupee could be a controlled and regulated digital alternative to private cryptocurrencies.
Taxation and Reporting: Cryptocurrency transactions could be subject to taxation, and users may be required to report their holdings and transactions to tax authorities. This would address concerns related to tax evasion.
Investor Education and Awareness: The government may emphasize the importance of educating investors about the risks and benefits of cryptocurrencies, fostering responsible investing.
International Cooperation: Given the global nature of cryptocurrencies, India may seek to cooperate with other countries to develop a coordinated approach to regulation, especially in areas like cross-border transactions and money laundering prevention.
Key Considerations for Regulation-
Balancing Innovation and Regulation: Striking the right balance between fostering innovation in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space while ensuring investor protection and financial stability is crucial.
Consumer Protection: Protecting retail investors from fraud and scams is a paramount concern. Regulations should include provisions for KYC/AML compliance by cryptocurrency exchanges and adequate disclosure mechanisms.
Market Integrity: Ensuring fair and transparent market practices, including measures to prevent market manipulation and insider trading, is essential to maintain market integrity.
Taxation: Developing clear tax guidelines for cryptocurrency transactions and holdings is necessary to prevent tax evasion and revenue loss.
International Coordination: Cryptocurrencies operate globally, and regulatory arbitrage can occur. International cooperation and coordination with other jurisdictions are critical to address cross-border challenges effectively.
Cryptocurrency regulation in India has undergone significant developments, from initial warnings to the Supreme Court's verdict declaring the RBI circular unconstitutional. While there is still no comprehensive regulatory framework in place, the Indian government has shown a willingness to engage with this evolving technology. Future regulations should aim to strike a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring consumer protection, market integrity, and compliance with legal and tax requirements.
As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, it is essential for stakeholders, including the government, industry participants, and investors, to engage in a constructive dialogue that considers the unique characteristics and potential of cryptocurrencies while addressing the associated risks. Cryptocurrency regulation in India remains a dynamic and evolving field, and its future shape will have a significant impact on the country's financial ecosystem.