The Supreme Court has directed the Registrar Generals of all the high courts to report about steps taken by high courts for speedy disposal of cheque cases and also about the procedure of dealing such cases online.
A bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Indu Malhotra, while hearing a batch of Special Leave Petitions against judgments by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana in cheque bounce matters, observed: “In view of the judgment of this Court dated 5th October, 2017 in Meters & Instruments Private Limited & Anr. v. Kanchan Mehta in Crl.A. No. 1731 of 2017 (2018 (1) SCC 560), we direct the Registrar Generals of all the High Courts to send a report to the Secretary-General of this Court about the status of direction(s), if any, issued or proposed by the High Courts for dealing with cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act in the light of the observations of the said judgment including the procedure of dealing with the matters 'on line'.”
Meters & Instruments Private Limited Judgment
In Meters & Instruments Private Limited, the court had issued various directions for speedy disposal of cheque cases. It had also clarified that an accused in a case under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act can be discharged even without the consent of the complainant, if the court is satisfied that the complainant has been duly compensated.
The judgment, also authored by Justice Goel, 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. If the accused complies with such summons and informs the Court and the complainant by e-mail, the Court can ascertain the objection, if any, of the complainant and close the proceedings unless it becomes necessary to proceed with the case. In such a situation, the accused’s presence can be required, unless the presence is otherwise exempted subject to such conditions as may be considered appropriate. The accused, who wants to contest the case, must be required to disclose specific defence for such contest. It is open to the Court to ask specific questions to the accused at that stage. In case the trial is to proceed, it will be open to the Court to explore the possibility of settlement. It will also be open to the Court to consider the provisions of plea bargaining. Subject to this, the trial can be on day to day basis and endeavour must be to conclude it within six months. The guilty must be punished at the earliest as per law and the one who obeys the law need not be held up in proceedings for long unnecessarily.”
The court had also said that it will be open to the high courts to consider and lay down the category of cases where proceedings or part thereof can be conducted online by designated courts or otherwise and also to consider issuing any further updated directions for dealing with such cases.
This week, this bench headed by Justice AK Goel, is seen issuing directions to the concerned to check compliance of directives in the earlier judgments.
On Wednesday, it had issued notice to Union of India and the State of Madhya Pradesh to consider whether any steps are being taken to ensure expeditious hearing of criminal appeals by creating an alternative forum.
On Monday, the same bench had directed the Law Ministry to apprise it about the status in considering the amendment in Code of Criminal Procedure at par with Section 339-B of the CrPC as applicable in Bangladesh providing for ‘trial in absentia’ of accused who absents himself during trial.
Gujarat High Court had issued such directives
Live Law had reported a Gujarat High Court order that had 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.
The high court, in the said judgment, had 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 be provided in the summons itself, and straightway thereafter, he can be given a discharge by closing the case qua him.”