Giving notice is not same as receipt of notice, giving is a process of which receipt is the accomplishment

It is for the payee to perform the former process by sending the notice to the drawer in the correct address.

In Black’s Law Dictionary, `giving of notice’ is distinguished from `receiving of the notice.’ (vide page 621) “A person notifies or gives notice to another by taking such steps as may be reasonably required to inform the other in the ordinary course, whether or not such other actually comes to know of it.” A person `receives’ a notice when it is duly delivered to him or at the place of his business.

If a strict interpretation is given that the drawer should have actually received the notice for the period of 15 days to start running no matter that the payee sent the notice on the correct address, a trickster cheque drawer would get the premium to avoid receiving the notice by different strategies and he could escape-from the legal consequences of Section 138 of the Act. It must be borne in mind that Court should not adopt in interpretation which helps a dishonest evader and clips an honest payee as that would defeat the very legislative measure.

In Maxwell’s `Interpretation of Statues’ the learned author has emphasized that “provisions relating to giving of notice often receive liberal interpretation.” (vide page 99 of the 12th edn.) The context envisaged in Section 138 of the Act invites a liberal interpretation for the person who has the statutory obligation to give notice because he is presumed to be the loser in the transaction and it is for his interest the very provision is made by the legislature. The words in clause (b) of the proviso to Section 138 of the Act show that payee has the statutory obligation to `make a demand’ by giving notice. The thrust in the clause is on the need to `make a-demand’. It is only the mode for making such demand which the legislature has prescribed. A payee can send the notice for doing his part for giving the notice. Once it is despatched his part is over and the next depends on what the sendee does.

It is well settled that a notice refused to be accepted by the addressee can be presumed to have been served on him, [vide Harcharan Singh v. Smt. Shivrani and Ors., [1981] 2 SCC 535, and Jagdish Singh v. Natthu Singh, [1992] 1 SCC 647.] Here the notice is returned as unclaimed and not as refused. Will there be any significant different between the two so far as the presumption of service is concerned? In this connection a reference to Section 27 of the General Clauses Act will be useful. The Section reads thus :

“27. Meaning of service by post. – Where any central Act or Regulation made after the commencement of this Act authorizes or requires any document to be served by post, whether the expression `serve’ or either of the expressions `give’ or `send’ or any other expression is used, then, unless a different intention appears, the service shall be deemed to be effected by properly addressing, pre-paying and posting by registered post, a letter containing the document, and unless the contrary is proved, to have been effected at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post”

No doubt Section 138 of the  Negotiable Instrument Act does not require that the notice should be given only by `post’. Nonetheless the principle incorporated in Section 27 (quoted above) can profitably be imported in a case where the sender has despatched the notice by post with the correct address written on it. Then it can be deemed to have been served on the sendee unless he proves that it was not really served and that he was not responsible for such non-service. Any other interpretation can lead to a very tenuous position as the drawer of the cheque who is liable to pay the amount would resort to the strategy of subterfuge by successfully avoiding the notice.

Thus, when a notice is returned by the sendee as unclaimed such date would be the commencing date in reckoning the period of 15 days contemplated in clause (c) to the proviso of Section 138 of the Act. Of course such reckoning would be without prejudice to the right of the drawer of the cheque to show that he had no knowledge that the notice was brought to his address. In the present case the accused did not even attempt to discharge the burden to rebut the aforesaid presumption.

 Refer : K. Bhaskaran vs Sankaran Vaidhyan Balan And Anr- Supreme Court of India [1999]

Categories: CIVIL, General Clauses Act

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