Bouncing of Cheque under Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881

PAGES: 1 2

UPDATES-11/02/2022

Nature of the offence

The nature of the offence under Section 138 of the NI Act is quasi-criminal in that, while it arises out of a civil wrong, the law, however, imposes a criminal penalty in the form of imprisonment or fine. The purpose of the enactment is to provide security to creditors and instil confidence in the banking system of the country. The nature of the proceedings under Section 138 of the NI Act was considered by a three judge Bench decision of this Court in P Mohanraj and Others v. Shah Brothers Ispat Private Limited (2021) 6 SCC 258, where Justice RF Nariman, after adverting to the precedents of this Court, observed that:

“53. A perusal of the judgment in Ishwarlal Bhagwandas [S.A.L. Narayan Row v. Ishwarlal Bhagwandas, (1966) 1 SCR 190 : AIR 1965 SC 1818] would show that a civil proceeding is not necessarily a proceeding which begins with the filing of a suit and culminates in execution of a decree. It would include a revenue proceeding as well as a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, if the reliefs therein are to enforce rights of a civil nature. Interestingly, criminal proceedings are stated to be proceedings in which the larger interest of the State is concerned.

Given these tests, it is clear that a Section 138 proceeding can be said to be a “civil sheep” in a “criminal wolf’s” clothing, as it is the interest of the victim that is sought to be protected, the larger interest of the State being subsumed in the victim alone moving a court in cheque bouncing cases, as has been seen by us in the analysis made hereinabove of Chapter XVII of the Negotiable Instruments Act.”

Chapter XVII containing Sections 138 to 142 was introduced in the Act by Act 66 of 1988 with the object of inculcating faith in the efficacy of banking operations and giving credibility to negotiable instruments in business transactions. These provisions were intended to discourage people from not honouring their commitments by way of payment through cheques. The court should lean in favour of an interpretation which serves the object of the statute. A post-dated cheque will lose its credibility and acceptability if its payment can be stopped routinely.

The offence under Section 138 of the Act can be completed only with the concatenation of a number of acts. The following are the acts which are components of the said offence:  BULLET 2

  1. drawing of the cheque,
  2. presentation of the cheque to the bank,
  3. returning the cheque unpaid by the drawee bank,
  4.  giving notice in writing to the drawer of the cheque demanding payment of the cheque amount,
  5.  failure of the drawer to make payment within 15 days of the receipt of the notice.

INTRODUCTION 

  • The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 [All sections]
  • 138. Dishonour of cheque for insufficiency, etc., of funds in the account.
    139. Presumption in favour of holder.
    140. Defence which may not be allowed in any prosecution under section 138.
    141. Offences by companies.
    142. Cognizance of offences.
    142A. Validation for transfer of pending cases.
    143. Power of Court to try cases summarily.
    143A. Power to direct interim compensation.
    144. Mode of service of summons.
    145. Evidence on affidavit.
    146. Banks slip prima facie evidence of certain facts.
    147. Offences to be compoundable.
    148. Power of Appellate Court to order

Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881

Interpretation

In Bank of India v. Vijay Transport [Bank of India v. Vijay Transport, 1988 Supp SCC 47] ,The Court was dealing with the contention that a literal interpretation is not always the only interpretation of a provision in a statute and the court has to look at the setting in which the words are used and the circumstances in which the law came to be passed to decide whether there is something implicit behind the words actually used which would control the literal meaning of the words used.

Purpose of Section 138

The primary purpose of Section 138 of the NI Act is to ensure compensation to the complainant, the NI Act also allows for parties to enter into a compromise, both during the pendency of the complaint and even after the conviction of the accused. The effect of an offence under Section 138 of the NI Act is limited to two private parties involved in a commercial transaction. However, the intent of the legislature in providing a criminal sanction for dishonour of cheques is to ensure the credibility of transactions involving negotiable instruments.

It may be noted that when the offence was inserted in the statute in 1988, it carried the provision for imprisonment up to one year, which was revised to two years following the amendment to the Act in 2002. It is quite evident that the legislative intent was to provide a strong criminal remedy in order to deter the worryingly high incidence of dishonour of cheques. While the possibility of imprisonment up to two years provides a remedy of a punitive nature, the provision for imposing a “fine which may extend to twice the amount of the cheque” serves a compensatory purpose. What must be remembered is that the dishonour of a cheque can be best described as a regulatory offence that has been created to serve the public interest in ensuring the reliability of these instruments. The impact of this offence is usually confined to the private parties involved in commercial transactions. Thus, under the shadow of Section 138 of the NI Act, parties are encouraged to settle the dispute resulting in ultimate closure of the case rather than continuing with a protracted litigation before the court. This is beneficial for the complainant as it results in early recovery of money; alteration of the terms of the contract for higher compensation and avoidance of litigation. Equally, the accused is benefitted as it leads to avoidance of a conviction and sentence or payment of a fine.

Unlike Section 320 CrPC, Section 147 of the Negotiable Instruments Act provides no explicit guidance as to what stage compounding can or cannot be done and whether compounding can be done at the instance of the complainant or with the leave of the court.

CHAPTER 17 [Section 138-145]

OF PENALTIES IN CASE OF DISHONOUR OF CERTAIN CHEQUES FOR INSUFFICIENCY OF FUNDS IN THE ACCOUNT


  1. Dishonour of cheque for insufficiency, etc., of funds in the account.—Where any cheque drawn by a person on an account maintained by him with a banker for payment of any amount of money to another person from out of that account for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability, is returned by the bank unpaid, either because of the amount of money standing to the credit of that account is insufficient to honour the cheque or that it exceeds the amount arranged to be paid from that account by an agreement made with that bank, such person shall be deemed to have committed an offence and shall, without prejudice to any other provisions of this Act, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may be extended to two years, or with fine which may extend to twice the amount of the cheque, or with both:

Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply unless—

(a)the cheque has been presented to the bank within a period of six months from the date on which it is drawn or within the period of its validity, whichever is earlier;

(b)the payee or the holder in due course of the cheque, as the case may be, makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving a notice in writing, to the drawer of the cheque, within thirty days of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid; and

(c)the drawer of such cheque fails to make the payment of the said amount of money to the payee or, as the case may be, to the holder in due course of the cheque, within fifteen days of the receipt of the said notice.

Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, “debt or other liability” means a legally enforceable debt or other liability.

Comment

Section 138 of the Act has three ingredients viz.:

(i) that there is a legally enforceable debt (ii) that the cheque was drawn from the account of bank for discharge in whole or in part of any debt or other liability which presupposes a legally enforceable debt; and (iii) that the cheque so issued had been returned due to insufficiency of funds. The proviso appended to the said section provides for compliance with legal requirements before a complaint petition can be acted upon by a court of law. Section 139 of the Act merely raises a presumption in regard to the second aspect of the matter. Existence of legally recoverable debt is not a matter of presumption under Section 139 of the Act. It merely raises a presumption in favour of a holder of the cheque that the same has been issued for discharge of any debt or other liability.

The ingredients of the offence under Section 138 are:

(i) The drawing of a cheque by person on an account maintained by him with the banker for the payment of any amount of money to another from that account;

(ii) The cheque being drawn for the discharge in whole or in part of any debt or other liability;

(iii) Presentation of the cheque to the bank;

(iv) The return of the cheque by the drawee bank as unpaid either because the amount of money standing to the credit of that account is insufficient to honour the cheque or that it exceeds the amount arranged to be paid from that account;

(v) A notice by the payee or the holder in due course making a demand for the payment of the amount to the drawer of the cheque within 30 days of the receipt of information from the bank in regard to the return of the cheque; and

(vi) The drawer of the cheque failing to make payment of the amount of money to the payee or the holder in due course within 15 days of the receipt of the notice.

  • The interpretation of the expression ‘for discharge of any debt or other liability’ occurring in Section 138 of the N.I. Act is significant and decisive of the matter.
  • No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under Section 138 except when a complaint in writing is made by the payee or by the holder in due course and such complaint has to be made within one month from the date on which the cause of action arises under clause (b) of the proviso to Section 138. It is also noticed by their Lordships that neither Section 138 nor Section 142 of the Act or any other provision contained in the said Act prevents the holder or the payee of the cheque from presenting the cheque for encashment for any number of occasions within a period of six months from the date of its issuance or within a period of its validity, whichever is earlier. Therefore, it appears that the payee or the holder has a right to present the same as manynumber of times for encashment within a period of six months or within its validity period, whichever is earlier[MSR Leathers Vs.  Palaniappan & Anr.2013]

Complaint filed before the statutory period: Yogender Pratap Singh vs. Savitri Devi, 2014 (4) CCC 305 (SC) it was held by the Hon’ble Court that the Complaint filed before expiry of 15 days from the date of receipt of notice by the accused is not maintainable.

Condonation of Delay: In K.S. Joseph vs. Philips Carbon Black Ltd. and another, 2016(2) RCR (Criminal) 788 (SC) it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the delay in filing of complaint under Section 138 of the Act can not be condoned without notice to the accused.

Cheque amount is higher than the debt: For the purposes of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, the cheque should be towards the discharge of either the whole debt or part of the debt. If the cheque is for more than the amount of the debt due, Section 138 cannot be attracted.

  • Cheque issued for settlement of other civil or other proceedings is not Legal Debt.
  • Read Stop payment

Post-dated cheque-The purpose of a post-dated cheque is to provide some accommodation to the drawer of the cheque. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that the drawer of the cheque should not be allowed to abuse the accommodation given to him by a creditor by way of acceptance of a post-dated cheque. In view of Section 139, it has to be presumed 12 that a cheque is issued in discharge of any debt or other liability. The presumption can be rebutted by adducing evidence and the burden of proof is on the person who wants to rebut the presumption.[Rangappa Vrs. Sri Mohan, reported in 2010 (3) JCR 16 (SC)]

Financial capacity-presumption under Section 139 of the N.I. Act would enure to the benefit of the complainant only if he proves his financial capacity and on the contrary the trial court had for reasons recorded found that the accused has rebutted the presumption by placing cogent evidence that there was no legally recoverable debt or liability and the complainant had no capacity to lend huge amount of Rs.14 lakhs and, accordingly, dismissed the complaint by acquitting the accused.[K. Subramani Vs. K. Damodara Naidu-13/11/2014 SC]

Stop payment-In M.M.T.C. Ltd. and Anr. v. Medchl Chemicals & Pharma (P) Ltd., (2002) 1 SCC 234 (Para. 19): “… The authority shows that even when the cheque is dishonoured by reason of stop payment instruction, by virtue of Section 139 the Court has to presume that the cheque was received by the holder for the discharge in whole or in part, of any debt or liability. Of course this is a rebuttable presumption. The accused can thus show that the `stop payment’ instructions were not issued because of insufficiency or paucity of funds. If the accused shows that in his account there was sufficient funds to clear the amount of the cheque at the time of presentation of the cheque for encashment at the drawer bank and that the stop payment notice had been issued because of other valid causes including that there was no existing debt or liability at the time of presentation of cheque for encashment, then offence under Section 138 would not be made out. The important thing is that the burden of so proving would be on the accused.

No debt cheque-  In Lalit Kumar Sharma v. State of U.P., (2008) 5 SCC 638 : (2008) 2 SCC (Cri) 682 is distinguishable on facts, in that the cheque had not been issued in discharge of any debt or liability of the company of which the accused were said to be the Directors. The cheque was found to have been issued for the purpose of arriving at a settlement. But when “the cheque issued pursuant to the order of the Lok Adalat, was also dishonoured. This clearly gave rise to a fresh cause of action under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.” In the event that the compromise deed is found to be void ab initio on account of coercion, the very basis for quashing of the first complaint is removed since the settlement agreement is deemed to have never existed and hence it had no effect on the liability subsisting under the first complaint. The appellants may then approach the competent court for reinstatement of the original complaint and the trial can proceed on that basis [M/s. Gimpex Private Ltd. Vs. Manoj Goel-SC-October 08, 2021]


  1. Presumption in favour of holder.—It shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the holder of a cheque received the cheque of the nature referred to in section 138 for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability.

Comment:

There is a mandate of presumption of consideration in terms of the provisions of the Act and the onus shifts to the accused on proof of issuance of cheque to rebut the presumption that the cheque was issued not for discharge of any debt or liability in terms of Section 138 of the Act.

Presumptions under Section 118 and 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act in favour of the holder of the cheque. Until the contrary is proved, the presumption is in favour of holder of the cheque that it has been drawn for the discharge of debt or liabilities. However, it is rebutable one and accused can rebut it without entering into witness box, through cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses. Complainant is not absolved from liability to show that cheque was issued for legally enforceable debt or liability

Section 139 of the Act is an example of a reverse onus clause that has been included in furtherance of the legislative objective of improving the credibility of negotiable instruments.

While Section 138 of the Act specifies a strong criminal remedy in relation to the dishonour of cheques, the rebuttable presumption under Section 139 is a device to prevent undue delay in the course of litigation. However, it must be remembered that the offence made punishable by Section 138 can be better described as a regulatory offence since the bouncing of a cheque is largely in the nature of a civil wrong whose impact is usually confined to the private parties involved in commercial transactions. In such a scenario, the 21 test of proportionality should guide the construction and interpretation of reverse onus clauses and the accused/defendant cannot be expected to discharge an unduly high standard or proof. In the absence of compelling justifications, reverse onus clauses usually impose an evidentiary burden and not a persuasive burden. Keeping this in view, it is a settled position that when an accused has to rebut the presumption under Section 139, the standard of proof for doing so is that of `preponderance of probabilities’.[Rangappa Vrs. Sri Mohan, reported in 2010 (3) JCR 16 (SC)]

In Bharat Barrel & Drum Manufacturing Company Vs. Amin Chand Pyarelal, reported in (1993) 3 SCC 35, (para 12) wherein, it has been held as follows:-

“ Upon consideration of various Judgments as noted hereinabove, the position of law which emerges is that once execution of the promissory note is admitted, the presumption under Section 118(a) would arise that it is supported by a consideration. Such a presumption is rebuttable. The defendant can prove the non-existence of a consideration by raising a probable defence. If the defendant is proved to have discharged the initial onus of proof showing that the existence of consideration was improbable or doubtful or the same was illegal, the onus would shift to the plaintiff who will be obliged to prove it as a matter of fact and upon its failure to prove would disentitle him to the grant of relief on the basis of the negotiable instrument. The burden upon the defendant of proving the non-existence of the consideration can be either direct or by bringing on record the preponderance of probabilities by reference to the circumstances upon which he relies. In such an event, the plaintiff is entitled under law to rely upon all the evidence led in the case including of the plaintiff as well. In case, where the defendant fails to discharge the initial onus of proof by showing the non-existence of the consideration, the plaintiff would invariably be held entitled to the benefit of presumption arising under Section 118(a) in his favour. The Court may not insist upon the defendant to disapprove the existence of consideration by leading direct evidence as the existence of negative evidence is neither possible nor contemplated and even if led, is to be seen with a doubt. The bare denial of the passing of the consideration apparently does not appear to be any defence. Something which is probable has to be brought on record for getting the benefit of shifting the onus of proving to the plaintiff. To disprove the presumption, the defendant has to bring on record such facts and circumstances upon consideration of which the Court may either believe that the consideration did not exist or its non-existence was so probable that a prudent man would, under the circumstances of the case, act upon the plea that it did not exist”. (Emphasis supplied)

The aforementioned decision has been approvingly cited by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Rangappa Vrs. Sri Mohan, reported in 2010 (3) JCR 16 (SC).

The scope of Section 139 of the Act- When an accused has to rebut the presumption, the standard of proof for doing so is that of “preponderance or probabilities” which has been examined by a three Judge Bench of this Court in Rangappa vs. Sri Mohan (2010) 11 SCC 441 , which reads as under:

“26. In light of these extracts, we are in agreement with the respondent claimant that the presumption mandated by Section 139 of the Act does indeed include the existence of a legally enforceable debt or liability. To that extent, the impugned observations in Krishna Janardhan Bhat [(2008) 4 SCC 54 : (2008) 2 SCC (Cri) 166] may not be correct. However, this does not in any way cast doubt on the correctness of the decision in that case since it was based on the specific facts and circumstances therein. As noted in the citations, this is of course in the nature of a rebuttable presumption and it is open to the accused to raise a defence wherein the existence of a legally enforceable debt or liability can be contested. However, there can be no doubt that there is an initial presumption which favours the complainant.

“27. Section 139 of the Act is an example of a reverse onus clause that has been included in furtherance of the legislative objective of improving the credibility of negotiable instruments. While Section 138 of the Act specifies a strong criminal remedy in relation to the dishonour of cheques, the rebuttable presumption under Section 139 is a device to prevent undue delay in the course of litigation. However, it must be remembered that the offence made punishable by Section 138 can be better described as a regulatory offence since the bouncing of a cheque is largely in the nature of a civil wrong whose impact is usually confined to the private parties involved in commercial transactions. In such a scenario, the test of proportionality should guide the construction and interpretation of reverse onus clauses and the defendantaccused cannot be expected to discharge an unduly high standard or proof.”

It is well settled that the proceedings under Section 138 of the Act are quasicriminal in nature, and the principles which apply to acquittal in other criminal cases are not applicable in the cases instituted under the Act.


  1. Defence which may not be allowed in any prosecution under Section 138.—It shall not be a defence in a prosecution for an offence under section 138 that the drawer had no reason to believe when he issued the cheque that the cheque may be dishonoured on presentment for the reasons stated in that section.

Comment: 

Section 140 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 prohibits what cannot be a defence in a prosecution in respect of offence punishable under Section 138 of the N.I. Act.

In Kumar Exports v. Sharma Carpets (2009) 2 SCC 513 this Court has observed:

“18. Applying the definition of the word “proved” in Section 3 of the Evidence Act to the provisions of Sections 118 and 139 of the Act, it becomes evident that in a trial under Section 138 of the Act a presumption will have to be made that every negotiable instrument was made or drawn for consideration and that it was executed for discharge of debt or liability once the execution of negotiable instrument is either proved or admitted.

As soon as the complainant discharges the burden to prove that the instrument, say a note, was executed by the accused, the rules of presumptions under Sections 118 and 139 of the Act help him shift the burden on the accused. The presumptions will live, exist and survive and shall end only when the contrary is proved by the accused, that is, the cheque was not issued for consideration and in discharge of any debt or liability. A presumption is not in itself evidence, but only makes a prima facie case for a party for whose benefit it exists.

The use of the phrase “until the contrary is proved” in Section 118 of the Act and use of the words “unless the contrary is proved” in Section 139 of the Act read with definitions of “may presume” and “shall presume” as given in Section 4 of the Evidence Act, makes it at once clear that presumptions to be raised under both the provisions are rebuttable. When a presumption is rebuttable, it only points out that the party on whom lies the duty of going forward with evidence, on the fact presumed and when that party has produced evidence fairly and reasonably tending to show that the real fact is not as presumed, the purpose of the presumption is over.”


  1. Offences by companies —(1)If the person committing an offence under section 138 is a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly:

Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any person liable to punishment if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence:

Provided further that where a person is nominated as a Director of a company by virtue of his holding any office or employment in the Central Government or State Government or a financial corporation owned or controlled by the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, he shall not be liable for prosecution under this Chapter.

(2)Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), where any offence under this Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to, any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Explanation.—

For the purposes of this section,—

(a)“company” means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals; and

(b)“director”, in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm.

Comment

In case of K. Shrikant Singh vs. North East Security Ltd. and others, J.T.2007 (9) SC 449, Hon’ble Apex court observed that vicarious liability on the part of a person must be pleaded and proved and not inferred.

  • Only the drawer of the cheque falls within the ambit of Section 138 of the Act whether human being or a body corporate or even a firm
  • If a company is not prosecuted due to any legal snag or otherwise, the other prosecuted persons cannot, on that score alone, escape from the penal liability created through the legal fiction envisaged in Section 141 of the Act [Anil Hada v. India Acrylic Ltd. (2000) 1 SCC 1] was over ruled  by Aneeta Hada v. Godfather Travels and Tours Pvt. Ltd. (2012) 5 SCC 661 and held ” for maintaining the prosecution under Section 141 of the Act, arraigning of a company as an accused is imperative. The other categories of offenders can only be brought in the drag-net on the touchstone of vicarious liability as the same has been stipulated in the provision itself and reaffirmed in Anil Gupta  VERSUS Star India Pvt. Ltd. & Anr [2014]
  • Section 141 states that if the person committing an offence under Section 138 is a Company, every director of such Company who was in charge of and responsible to that Company for conduct of its business shall also be deemed to be guilty. The reason for creating vicarious liability is plainly that a juristic entity i.e. a Company would be run by living persons who are in charge of its affairs and who guide the actions of that Company and that if such juristic entity is guilty, those who were so responsible for its affairs and who guided actions of such juristic entity must be held responsible and ought to be proceeded against. Section 141 again does not lay down any requirement that in such eventuality the directors must individually be issued separate notices under Section 138.The persons who are in charge of the affairs of the Company and running its affairs must naturally be aware of the notice of demand under Section 138 of the Act issued to such Company. It is precisely for this reason that no notice is additionally contemplated to be given to such directors. The opportunity to the ‘drawer’ Company is considered good enough for those who are in charge of the affairs of such Company. If it is their case that the offence was committed without their knowledge or that they had exercised due diligence to prevent such commission, it would be a matter of defence to be considered at the appropriate stage in the trial and certainly not at the stage of notice under Section 138.[KIRSHNA TEXPORT & CAPITAL MARKETS LTD.Vs ILA A. AGRAWAL & ORS SC 2009]
  • When the drawer of the cheque who falls within the ambit of Section 138 of the Act is a human being or a body corporate or even firm, prosecution proceedings can be initiated against such drawer. In this context, the phrase ‘as well as’ used in Sub-section (1) of Section 141 of the Act has some importance. The said phrase would embroil the persons mentioned in the first category within the tentacles of the offence on a par with the offending company. Similarly the words ‘shall also’ in Sub-section (2) are capable of bringing the third category persons additionally within the dragnet of the offence on an equal par. The effect of reading Section 141 is that when the company is the drawer of the cheque such company is the principal offender under Section 138 of the Act and the remaining persons are made offenders by virtue of the legal fiction created by the legislature as per the section. Hence the actual offence should have been committed by the company, and then alone the other two categories of persons can also become liable for the offence.[ JITENDRA VORA VERSUS BHAVANA Y. SHAH & ANR  September 16, 2015 ]

  1. Cognizance of offences.—(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)—

(a)no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 138 except upon a complaint, in writing, made by the payee or, as the case may be, the holder in due course of the cheque;

(b)such complaint is made within one month of the date on which the cause of action arises under clause (c) of the proviso to section 138:

Provided that the cognizance of a complaint may be taken by the Court after the prescribed period if the complainant satisfies the Court that he had sufficient cause for not making a complaint within such period.

(c)no court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence punishable under section 138.

(2)The offence under section 138 shall be inquired into and tried only by a court within whose local jurisdiction,—

(a)if the cheque is delivered for collection through an account, the branch of the bank where the payee or holder in due course, as the case may be, maintains the account, is situated; or

(b)if the cheque is presented for payment by the payee or holder in due course, otherwise through an account, the branch of the drawee bank where the drawer maintains the account, is situated.

Explanation.— For the purposes of clause (a), where a cheque is delivered for collection at any branch of the bank of the payee or holder in due course, then, the cheque shall be deemed to have been delivered to the branch of the bank in which the payee or holder in due course, as the case may be, maintain the account.

Comment:

An accused for discharging the burden of proof placed upon him under a statute need not examine himself. He may discharge his burden on the basis of the materials already brought on record. An accused has a constitutional right to maintain silence. Standard of proof on the part of the accused and that of the prosecution in a criminal case is different.

We are of the view that this Court in Harman Electronics (supra) affirmed what it had said in K. Bhaskaran (supra) that court within whose jurisdiction the cheque is presented and in whose jurisdiction there is failure to make payment within 15 days of the receipt of notice can have jurisdiction to try the offence under Section 138 of the N.I. Act.[Nishant Aggarwal Versus Kailash Kumar Sharma 2013]

Liability of the drawer  in the following cases ⇓

  1. Insufficient funds
  2. Exceeds arrangements
  3. Payment stopped
  4. Account already closed
  5. No such account
  6. Stop payment
  7. Signature differ
  8. Refer to drawer.
  9. Not arranged for

10. Account not in the name of accused-A person must have drawn cheque on account maintained by him- Jugesh Sehgal Versus Shamsher Singh Gogi 2009(3) RCR(Criminal) 712 (SC)

  • The provision of Section 202 Criminal Procedure Code are not applicable to the complaints filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instrument Act.
  •  If a cheque drawn on an account which is already closed, mala fide intention was clear in the case. Both offences of cheating under Section 420 IPC and Section 138 of NIT Act are made out and accused can prosecuted for both the offences.

CULPABILITY-Ordinarily in cheque bouncing cases, what the courts have to consider is whether the ingredients of the offence  enumerated in Section 138 of the Act have been met and if so, whether the accused was able to rebut the statutory presumption contemplated by Section 139 of the Act. With respect to the facts of the present case, it must be clarified that contrary to the trial court’s finding, Section 138 of the Act can indeed be attracted when a cheque is dishonoured on account of `stop payment’ instructions sent by the accused to his bank in respect of a post-dated cheque, irrespective of insufficiency of funds in the account. This position was clarified by this Court in Goa Plast (Pvt.) Ltd. v. Chico Ursula D’Souza, (2003) 3 SCC 232


142A. Validation for transfer of pending cases.—(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or any judgment, decree, order or direction of any court, all cases transferred to the court having jurisdiction under sub-section (2) of section 142, as amended by the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, shall be deemed to have been transferred under this Act, as if that sub-section had been in force at all material times.

(2)Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (2) of section 142 or sub-section (1), where the payee or the holder in due course, as the case may be, has filed a complaint against the drawer of a cheque in the court having jurisdiction under sub-section (2) of section 142 or the case has been transferred to that court under sub-section (1) and such complaint is pending in that court, all subsequent complaints arising out of section 138 against the same drawer shall be filed before the same court irrespective of whether those cheques were delivered for collection or presented for payment within the territorial jurisdiction of that court.

(3)If, on the date of the commencement of the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2015, more than one prosecution filed by the same payee or holder in due course, as the case may be, against the same drawer of cheques is pending before different courts, upon the said fact having been brought to the notice of the court, such court shall transfer the case to the court having jurisdiction under sub-section (2) of section 142, as amended by the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, before which the first case was filed and is pending, as if that sub-section had been in force at all material times.


  1. Power of Court to try cases summarily.—(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), all offences under this Chapter shall be tried by a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or by a Metropolitan Magistrate and the provisions of sections 262 to 265 (both inclusive) of the said Code shall, as far as may be, apply to such trials:

Provided that in the case of any conviction in a summary trial under this section, it shall be lawful for the Magistrate to pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and an amount of fine exceeding five thousand rupees:

Provided further that when at the commencement of, or in the course of, a summary trial under this section, it appears to the Magistrate that the nature of the case is such that a sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding one year may have to be passed or that it is, for any other reason, undesirable to try the case summarily, the Magistrate shall after hearing the parties, record an order to that effect and thereafter recall any witness who may have been examined and proceed to hear or rehear the case in the manner provided by the said Code.

(2)The trial of a case under this section shall, so far as practicable, consistently with the interests of justice, be continued from day to day until its conclusion, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the trial beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded in writing.

(3)Every trial under this section shall be conducted as expeditiously as possible and an endeavour shall be made to conclude the trial within six months from the date of filing of the complaint.

Comment

In Nitinbhai Saevatilal Shah and another vs. Manubhai Manjibhai Panchal and another, 2011(4) RCR (Criminal) 149 (SC) it was held by the Supreme Court in summary trial of complaint under Section 138 of the Act, if the Magistrate who recorded the evidence is transferred, the successor Judge can not pronounce judgments on basis of evidence recorded by his predecessor. He has to try case de novo.

If evidence is recorded in full and not in summary manner, then evidence recorded by predecessor can be acted upon. Though the provision contained in Sec.143 of the N. I. Act provides that cases u/s.138 are to be tried in summary way, they should be tried as a regular summons cases. If it appears to the Magistrate that nature of case is such that sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding one year may have to be passed, or that it is for any other reasons undesirable to try the case summarily, Magistrate shall
after hearing the parties record and order to that effect and try the case as a regular summons case.

  • Section 262 Cr.P.C. provides the procedure provided for trial of summons case shall
    be followed.
    Procedure in trial of summons case :
    1. On appearance of accused notice of accusation to be served.
    2. Evidence of prosecution
    3. 313 Cr.P.C.
    4. Evidence of defence
    5. Judgment of acquittal or conviction- which shall include
    (a) Substance of evidence
    (b) Brief statement of reasons for the findings
    However, in case of conviction in a summary trial, the Magistrate can pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and an amount of fine not exceeding 5000/

Dismissed for default: In V.K. Bhat vs. G. Ravi Kishore and another, 2016(2) RCR (Criminal) 793 (SC) it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that when complaint under section 138 of the Act is dismissed in default, it amounts to acquittal of accused under Section 256 of Cr.P.C


143A. Power to direct interim compensation. – (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (2 of 1974) the Court trying an offence under section 138 may order the drawer of the cheque to pay interim compensation to the complainant—
(a) in a summary trial or a summons case, where he pleads not guilty to the accusation made in the complaint; and

(b) in any other case, upon framing of charge.

(2) The interim compensation under sub-section (1) shall not exceed twenty per cent. of the amount of the cheque.
(3) The interim compensation shall be paid within sixty days from the date of the order under sub-section (1), or within such further period not exceeding thirty days as may be directed by the Court on sufficient cause being shown by the drawer of the cheque.
(4) If the drawer of the cheque is acquitted, the Court shall direct the complainant to repay to the drawer the amount of interim compensation, with interest at the bank rate as published by the Reserve Bank of India, prevalent at the beginning of the relevant financial year, within sixty days from the date of the order, or within such further period not exceeding thirty days as may be directed by the Court on sufficient cause being shown by the complainant.
(5) The interim compensation payable under this section may be recovered as if it were a fine under section 421 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (2 of 1974).
(6) The amount of fine imposed under section 138 or the amount of compensation awarded under section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (2 of 1974) shall be reduced by the amount paid or recovered as interim compensation under this section.

Comment: Inserted on 2.8.2018 [ Amended by Act 20 2018]


  1. Mode of service of summons.—(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), and for the purposes of this Chapter, a Magistrate issuing a summons to an accused or a witness may direct a copy of summons to be served at the place where such accused or witness ordinarily resides or carries on business or personally works; for gain, by speed post or by such courier services as are approved by a Court of Session.

(2)Where an acknowledgment purporting to be signed by the accused or the witness or an endorsement purported to be made by any person authorised by the postal department or the courier services that the accused or the witness refused to take delivery of summons has been received, the Court issuing the summons may declare that the summons has been duly served.


  1. Evidence on affidavit.—(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), the evidence of the complainant may be given by him on affidavit and may, subject to all just exceptions be read in evidence in any enquiry, trial or other proceeding under the said Code.

(2)The Court may, if it thinks fit, and shall, on the application of the prosecution or the accused, summon and examine any person giving evidence on affidavit as to the facts contained therein.

COMMENT

Statement of the accused-The statement of the accused recorded under Section 313 of the Code is not a substantive evidence of defence, but only an opportunity to the accused to explain the incriminating circumstances appearing in the prosecution case of the accused. Therefore, there is no evidence to rebut the presumption that the cheques were issued for consideration. To disprove the presumptions, the accused should bring on record such facts and circumstances, upon consideration of which, the court may either believe that the consideration and debt did not exist or their nonexistence was so probable that a prudent man would under the circumstances of the case, act upon the plea that they did not exist. “Apart from adducing direct evidence to prove that the note in question was not supported by consideration or that he had not incurred any debt or liability, the accused may also rely upon circumstantial evidence and if the circumstances so relied upon are compelling, the burden may likewise shift again on to the complainant. The accused may also rely upon presumptions of fact, for instance, those mentioned in Section 114 of the Evidence Act to rebut the presumptions arising under Sections 118 and 139 of the Act”[Sumeti Vij Vs. M/s. Paramount Tech Fab Industries-SC-March 09, 2021].


  1. Bank’s slip prima facie evidence of certain facts—The Court shall, in respect of every proceeding under this Chapter, on production of bank’s slip or memo having thereon the official mark denoting that the cheque has been dishonoured, presume the fact of dishonour of such cheque, unless and until such fact is disproved.

COMMENT

In Hiten P. Dalal v. Bratindranath Banerjee, (2001) 6 SCC 16, it was held (Ruma Pal, J. at Paras. 22-23):

16 “22. Because both Sections 138 and 139 require that the Court `shall presume’ the liability of the drawer of the cheques for the amounts for which the cheques are drawn, …, it is obligatory on the Court to raise this presumption in every case where the factual basis for the raising of the presumption has been established. It introduces an exception to the general rule as to the burden of proof in criminal cases and shifts the onus on to the accused (…). Such a presumption is a presumption of law, as distinguished from a presumption of fact which describes provisions by which the court may presume a certain state of affairs. Presumptions are rules of evidence and do not conflict with the presumption of innocence, because by the latter all that is meant is that the prosecution is obliged to prove the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The obligation on the prosecution may be discharged with the help of presumptions of law or fact unless the accused adduces evidence showing the reasonable probability of the non-existence of the presumed fact.

Under Section 118(a) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, the court is obliged to presume, until the contrary is proved, that the promissory note was made for consideration. It is also a settled position that the initial burden in this regard lies on the defendant to prove the non-existence of consideration by bringing on record such facts and circumstances which would lead the Court to believe the non-existence of the consideration either by direct evidence or by preponderance of probabilities showing that the existence of consideration was improbable, doubtful or illegal [Mallavarapu Kasivisweswara Rao v. Thadikonda Ramulu Firm & Ors., 2008 (8) SCALE 680]

Disproving presumption– To disprove the presumption, the defendant has to bring on record such facts and circumstances upon consideration of which the court may either believe that the consideration did not exist or its non-existence was so probable that a prudent man would, under the circumstances of the case, act upon the plea that it did not exist.


  1. Offences to be compoundable.—Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), every offence punishable under this Act shall be compoundable.

148. Power of Appellate Court to order payment pending appeal against conviction. – (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (2 of 1974) in an appeal by the drawer against conviction under section 138, the Appellate Court may order the appellant to deposit such sum which shall be a minimum of twenty per cent. of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial Court:

Provided that the amount payable under this sub-section shall be in addition to any interim compensation paid by the appellant under section 143A.

(2) The amount referred to in sub-section (1) shall be deposited within sixty days from the date of the order, or within such further period not exceeding thirty days as may be directed by the Court on sufficient cause being shown by the appellant.

(3) The Appellate Court may direct the release of the amount deposited by the appellant to the complainant at any time during the pendency of the appeal:

Provided that if the appellant is acquitted, the Court shall direct the complainant to repay to the appellant the amount so released, with interest at the bank rate as published by the Reserve Bank of India, prevalent at the beginning of the relevant financial year, within sixty days from the date of the order, or within such further period not exceeding thirty days as may be directed by the Court on sufficient cause being shown by the complainant.

Comment: Section 148 inserted on 2.8.2018 [ Amended by Act 20 2018]

%d bloggers like this: