The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the High Courts to submit their response within four weeks in the suo motu cognizance of the issue relating to the expeditious trial of cheque bounce cases under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act. The Court has asked the High Courts who have not responded yet to file appropriate affidavit. (In Re: Expeditious Trial of Cases Under Section 138 of N.I. Act 1881)
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran was hearing the matter through video conferencing. During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, who was appointed Amicus Curiae, submitted before the Court that most of the High Courts have not responded yet. He suggested that interim orders can be passed to ask the High Courts who have not responded yet, to file their response in two or three weeks. NALSA has submitted a report on pre-litigation mediation. But it’s not possible unless cognizance is taken of the case. It has to be done post-cognizance and not pre-cognizance as NALSA suggests.
CJI Bobde stated that Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the matter in March 2020. There was an order of take steps to reduce high pendency of cases relating to dishonored cheques. Amicus Curiaes have made submissions and NALSA has submitted a report. RBI has filed a reply to the preliminary report. The DGP of states were directed to respond with respect to service of summons by October 27, 2020 but only 7 DGPs have submitted response.
A division bench of CJI Bobde and Justice Nageswara Rao had taken up the suo motu case in March 2020 stating that with the ever growing number of cheque bounce cases, there is need to develop a mechanism for pre-litigation settlement in these cases.
Despite many changes brought through legislative amendments and various decisions of the Supreme Court mandating speedy trial and disposal of these cases, trial courts are filled with large number of pending cases.
The Court had suggested development of a separate software-based mechanism to track and ensure the service of process on the accused in cases relating to offences under Section 138 of NI Act. The RBI was also suggested to consider developing a new proforma of cheques so as to include the purpose of payment, along with other information to facilitate adjudication of real issues.