In line with the Supreme Court's directives on speedy disposal of cheque dishonor cases, the Gujarat High Court recently directed the Trial Court to allow the accused to pay the amount directly in the complainant's bank account and intimate the Court through an Email.
Justice Sonia Gokani further encouraged the use of technology for serving summons on the accused in such cases, noting, "...the requirement would be to take recourse to the advancement of technology by ensuring if there are other surest modes of service through e-mail or the text messages on the official mobile numbers."
For the sake of convenience and uniformity, Justice Gokani also provided draft summons for use by the Court, observing, "Pro forma summons is being given herein below, which can be used by the Court by making necessary changes while issuing summon to the respondent- accused by also specifying therein that if he is desirous of paying the amount straightway in the bank account of the applicant he may so do it, on intimation to the Court online of such payment on the official email Id, to provided in the summons itself, and straightway thereafter, he can be given a discharge by closing the case qua him."
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by a complainant, challenging a judgment passed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate whereby the accused had been acquitted from charges leveled under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.
During the hearing, the Court noted that the accused had chosen not to accept the notice of appeal pending admission, as issued by the Court. It was informed that the delay before the Trial Court was also because of the difficulty in serving the accused.
The Court then noted, "It is often noticed in many matters that all possible tactics are adopted by the opponent- accused to delay the matter by avoiding the services. Exercise of power under Section 65 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which necessitates the direction from the Court to affix the notice/ summons on the address of the respondent- accused deserves in such cases would be a must...
...However, if the compounding at the initial stage is not feasible, even at a later stage, the attempt should be made to ensure that the parties amicably arrive at a conclusion and subject to the appropriate compensation, as found acceptable to the parties, the matter can be put an end to."
The Court also took note of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Meters and Instruments Private Limited and Another vs. Kanchan Mehta, wherein the Apex Court had clarified that an accused in a cheque bounce case can be discharged even without the consent of the complainant, if the Court is satisfied that the complainant has been duly compensated. Among other things, the Court had also encouraged the use of a mechanism where the accused may be allowed to deposit the specified amount along with interest to the complainant's bank account, after which the proceedings may be closed.
To this end, the Apex Court had observed, "In every complaint under Section 138 of the Act, it may be desirable that the complainant gives his bank account number and if possible e-mail ID of the accused. If e-mail ID is available with the Bank where the accused has an account, such Bank, on being required, should furnish such e-mail ID to the payee of the cheque.
In every summons, issued to the accused, it may be indicated that if the accused deposits the specified amount, which should be assessed by the Court having regard to the cheque amount and interest/cost, by a specified date, the accused need not appear unless required and proceedings may be closed subject to any valid objection of the complainant."
In view of these observations, the High Court quashed the impugned order and restored the original case for consideration by the Trial Court. It clarified that if the Respondent chose to pay the amount directly to the bank account, the Trial Court "may give quietus to the matter by closing the proceeding qua him".
It further directed that the proforma summons as given by the Court be issued and ordered, "If the matter does not end at that stage, the matter shall be proceeded with expeditiously where the complainant and the respondent accused both shall cooperate. No adjournment shall be asked for nor shall be given unless there are unavoidable circumstances."