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For a long time, foreign exchange in India was treated as a controlled commodity because of its limited availability. The early stages of foreign exchange management in the country focussed on control of foreign exchange by regulating the demand due to its limited supply.

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Exchange control was introduced in India under the Defence of India Rules on September 3, 1939 on a temporary basis. The statutory power for exchange control was provided by the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) of 1947, which was subsequently replaced by a more comprehensive Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973.

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This Act empowered the Reserve Bank, and in certain cases the Central Government, to control and regulate dealings in foreign exchange payments outside India, export and import of currency notes and bullion, transfer of securities between residents and non-residents, acquisition of foreign securities, and acquisition of immovable property in and outside India, among other transactions.

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