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NEW DELHI : The government is studying the guidelines of the advertisement regulator to take a view on allegedly misleading advertisements by crypto exchanges, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, ahead of the introduction of a bill on cryptocurrencies.

However, Sitharaman did not say if the government plans to ban or regulate cryptocurrencies through the bill, which she said will be introduced once the Cabinet gives its clearance. 

“The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) which governs all advertisements, their guidelines are being studied, and the regulations that they have are all being looked into so that we can take if necessary some kind of a position or decision how we are going to handle this," Sitharaman said. 

She was asked by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament (MP) Sushil Kumar Modi if the government is contemplating a ban on crypto advertisements since they are without disclaimers. Modi said in the last four months. There has been a flurry of misleading advertisements on television, print, and social media. 

“They are promising heaven to the investors. During this T20 World Cup, more than 50 crore was spent by the crypto exchange companies," he added. 

However, Sitharaman said the Securities Exchange Board of India (Sebi), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and the government have been issuing statements in an attempt to build awareness to communicate that cryptocurrencies are a risky area, that people who are investing should be conscious of what they are doing and that this is an area not yet in a complete regulatory framework. 

Answering a question by MP Swapan Dasgupta that a ban on cryptocurrency may not be proper since the technology is still evolving, Sitharaman responded, “Keeping the propriety of the House, particularly since the House is in session and the fact that there is a bill being proposed sooner rather than later, any answer I would give now will pre-empt the discussion when the government comes with the bill with all its nuances." 

In a written reply to a question on whether Indian banks have the requisite technological system and training to regulate cryptocurrency transactions, Sitharaman said: “The question of monitoring cryptocurrency transactions, if any or regulating cryptocurrency transactions if any is consequent to the passage of the bill in Parliament." 

On a question of how many people paid tax from transactions of cryptocurrencies and how much tax has been collected, Sitharaman said she doesn’t have the information. “The income earned by crypto exchanges and other crypto service providing platforms is liable to tax under the head Business or Profession under Chapter-IV of the Income-tax Act, 1961. Applicability of tax rate will depend on status and category of taxpayer," she added. 

On crypto frauds, Sitharaman said the government does not collect specific information on cryptocurrency-related frauds. “However, eight cases related to cryptocurrency-related fraud are under investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement. Further disclosure of information may not be in the larger public interest," she added. 

On regulating non-fungible tokens (NFT), Sitharaman said at this moment she may not be able to say whether there will be a separate framework on NFTs or not. “But all these matters are being discussed," she added.

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