The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2015 is focused on clarifying the jurisdiction related issues for filing cases for offence committed under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2015, facilitates filing of cases only in a court within whose local jurisdiction the bank branch of the payee, where the payee delivers the cheque for payment through his account, is situated, except in case of bearer cheques, which are presented to the branch of the drawee bank and in that case the local court of that branch would get jurisdiction. The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2015 provides for retrospective validation for the new scheme of determining the jurisdiction of a court to try a case under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2015 also mandates centralisation of cases against the same drawer.
The clarification of jurisdictional issues may be desirable from the equity point of view as this would be in the interests of the complainant and would also ensure a fair trial.Further, the clarity on jurisdictional issue for trying the cases of cheque bouncing would increase the credibility of the cheque as a financial instrument. This is expected to help the trade and commerce in general and allow the lending institutions, including banks, to continue to extend financing to the productive sectors of economy, as the process of pursuing the cheque bouncing cases relating to loan default has been made simpler and efficient through the proposed amendments to the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.
The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 was enacted to define and amend the law relating to Promissory Notes, Bills of Exchange and Cheques. The object of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 is to encourage the usage of cheque and enhance the credibility of the instrument so that the normal business transactions and settlement of liabilities could be ensured. Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 deals with the offence pertaining to dishonor of cheque, drawn for discharge of any debt or other liability, on account of insufficiency of funds in the drawer’s account or on account of the fact that the cheque amount is more than the amount agreed to be paid by the bank, and provides for penalties for such dishonour.
Earlier, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in its judgment dated 1st August, 2014, in the case of Dashrath Rupsingh Rathod versus State of Maharashtra and another (Criminal Appeal No. 2287 of 2009) held that the territorial jurisdiction for cases relating to offence of dishonour of cheques is restricted to the court within whose local jurisdiction such offence was committed, which in the present context is where the cheque is dishonoured by the bank on which it is drawn. The Supreme Court had directed that only in those cases where post the summoning and appearance of the alleged accused, the recording of evidence has commenced as envisaged in section 145(2) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, proceeding will continue at that place. All other complaints (including those where the accused / respondent has not been properly served) shall be returned to the complainant for filing in the proper court, in consonance with exposition of the law, as determined by the Supreme Court.
Various financial institutions and industry associations had expressed difficulties, arising out of the legal interpretation by the Supreme Court about the jurisdiction of filing cases under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. In view of the urgency to create a suitable legal framework for determination of the place of jurisdiction for trying cases of dishonour of cheques under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, it was decided by the Government to introduce suitable amendments to the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.