I Always Wish India would Lead : Interview with N S Nappinai ②

Ms. Nappinai, a renowned lawyer, specializing in constitutional, criminal, IPR and cyber laws also has a passion for legal aspects of Blockchain and emerging technologies.

N S Nappinai

Interview Date :12th March 2020    

“I Always Wish India would Lead”

There were two government committees that were formed to decide on what to do with cryptocurrency. The first committee was for regulation, that’s why they suggested a crypto asset bill. The second committee said “just ban it all”, and in fact the proposed legislation was called “Banning of Cryptocurrency Act” The government today has two conflicting reports, and they have a lot of material that is already put together in terms of where the world is going in respect to cryptocurrency. The real issue with the government today is in taking a decision on the following items;

  1. Should cryptocurrency be allowed?
  2. If yes, whether cryptocurrency is or should be a payments system?
  3. Whether it is or should be treated as a commodity?
  4. Whether cryptocurrency exchanges should or will be regulated by a securities regulator, as Singapore and to a large extent Japan and America have done?
  5. How can the Government encourage and give confidence to the blockchain industry?

In deciding on these issues, I would say that India is in a good position with a lot of precedents to follow from across the Globe. I always wish India would lead on all these aspects, because we are right out there and in the top when it comes to IT, so why not lead from the front? However, in the present situation we are in a position where we already have many options to follow or adapt from around the world. They also have the examples which are closer to home where cryptocurrency had been restricted in its entirety. My submission which was before the first government committee, was to the effect that a ban may be very myopic. I also stated that we may be better off with regulation. Furthermore, I had advocated regulating through exchanges as my whole argument was that regulation, plus doing it through exchanges, will actually strengthen India’s hands with respect to enforcement against misuse or violations using cryptocurrencies. 

This was based on the following ground; cryptocurrency being a virtual asset, it is going to be next to impossible for governments to monitor its presence or its usage. Apart from that, any methodology for verifying its presence on devices would be completely intrusive. Transactions in crypto can just go underground the minute you ban it, and it is still going to be there open to misuse. All these issues that are raising with respect to how cryptocurrency can be used or misused, can also be done with fiat currency also. Crimes and money laundering can happen with fiat currency, so these are not issues that are restricted only to cryptocurrencies. The only real issue according to me appears to be the threat to the Sovereign right of a Nation. The use of cryptocurrency as a payment system, appears to violate this Sovereign right and is therefore likely to always face opposition. 

The one main issue, which I totally agree with the government on is, cryptocurrency is not legal tender and it can never be legal tender. Thus, we have to protect our Sovereign rights and also ensure awareness amongst users through regulation. It is very important to let everybody know explicitly that it is not legal tender. Explain what it is, and to what extent it can be used, because you are not going to be able to stop the young generation from dabbling into something that is new, and that appeals to them. The minute you appeal to a youngster “here is a product which says no central authority” the youngster will be like “no authority? wow I love it!”

 “I may not be able to build a car, but…”

I don’t know what it is that intrigues me about technology, but I am very passionate about this field of law including with respect to blockchain technology and other emerging technological inventions. However, I have to clarify myself in that, I am more of a specialist in technology laws, and not technology itself. If you would ask me “what is the difference between you and other lawyers” I would say that the distinction is in the underlying understanding of how technology works. I always put it this way “I may not be able to build a car, but I know what goes into the car and I know how to drive it”. So that’s where I come in, in respect to technology.

With regard to blockchain and crypto, I have been addressing these subjects in my training sessions for judges and police for a very long time, when it was very new to the world. This was still the time when cryptocurrency and blockchain were something that most people couldn’t comprehend, but I was out there speaking about it and trying to bring a little clarity to the scenario. I wouldn’t say that I am passionate about cryptocurrency, but I am fascinated by how blockchain has evolved. I hope that we are able to overcome the early days of resistance in figuring out how the technology can grow from here on.



Ms. N. S. Nappinai, Supreme Court Advocate and founder of Cyber Saathi, is a senior and renowned lawyer with over 29 years of experience, specializing in Constitutional, Criminal, IPR and cyberlaws. She also is an adviser for removal of child sexual abuse material and violent videos of offences against women from online platforms.

Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada



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