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3 yrs ago

Pay and get rid of cheque bouncing criminal complaint cases

Author: Advocate BODH MUKTI
Category : Cheque Bouncing

Until recently the accused in a criminal complaint case under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act had no remedy of getting the complaint case settled/disposed off without the consent of the complainant (payee). If the complainant did not consent to amount being offered by the accused, the Magistrate had no option but to proceed with the trial of the criminal complaint case and decide the same on merits. The accused in such cases had no option but to continue with the rigmarole of the criminal proceedings.

Not any more. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India vide decision dated 5th October, 2017 in Criminal Appeal No.1731 OF 2017 has held that if the accused is willing to pay the cheque amount along with reasonable interest and litigation charges to the satisfaction of the Magistrate, the Magistrate may end the proceedings exercising his powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

The aforesaid judgment has paved way for bonafide persons who are accused of cheque bouncing offences and who, for some or other reason, could not pay the cheque amount during the notice period and before the launching of the criminal prosecution. Now, such bonafide accused have the option to offer the cheque amount with reasonable interest to the satisfaction of the Magistrate. Such option was not available to the accused earlier and it had become a bargaining tool in the hands of the complainant to fleece the accused. By way of the said judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has empowered the Magistrates to terminate the proceedings if reasonable amount is offered by an accused to their satisfaction.

Though, no hard and fast yardstick is there to record the satisfaction of the Magistrate. However, the reasonableness of the amount/interest being offered may be measured in the facts and circumstances of the case. For example if the transaction is between two individuals & kind of friendly loan etc., then the interest rate being offered by the Banks on fixed deposits may be yardstick. If the transaction is between two corporates and commercial in nature, an interest rate which is charged by banks may be the yardstick. There are other factors that may factor in while recording the Magistrate's satisfaction.

In my opinion, the said judgment is a progressive one and may be helpful in reducing the pendency of the cheque bouncing cases which constitutes one of the largest segment/category of pending cases.  

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