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Enlargement of Scope & Changed Judicial Contours of Section 138 NI Act Before SC's Ruling in M/s Laxmi Dyechem v. State of Gujarat

Ranbir Singh Thakur
20 Jun 2021 6:43 AM GMT
Enlargement of Scope & Changed Judicial Contours of Section 138 NI Act Before SCs Ruling in M/s Laxmi Dyechem v. State of Gujarat
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This extant academic exercise would endeavour to adumbrate and debunk the follies of strictly construing a penal provision as contained in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 so as to accord the defaulters a lucrative incentive to elude conviction for dishonoring a cheque payable to discharge the legally enforceable debts or liabilities and further to exhort readers...

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This extant academic exercise would endeavour to adumbrate and debunk the follies of strictly construing a penal provision as contained in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 so as to accord the defaulters a lucrative incentive to elude conviction for dishonoring a cheque payable to discharge the legally enforceable debts or liabilities and further to exhort readers to eschew adopting a construction that would invariably render the object of the statute as well as the mischief it seeks to remedy otiose. This scholarship would also profusely accentuate the need to give full effect to the deeming fiction enumerated in Section 138 of the NI Act, fixing a strict liability on the debtors on account of insufficiency of funds to honour the cheque eventually ensuing into dishonor of the instrument of credit, in order to accord a liberal construction to the aforesaid penal provision, essentially to encapsulate the grounds upon which drawer may inadvertently dishonor a cheque along with providing adequate safeguards to bonafide drawer to accord him an opportunity to issue a cheque de novo to discharge his debt obligations towards the creditor within the time stipulated therein after the receipt of statutory notice of demand given by the payee or holder in due course. Furthermore, this scholarship would also delve into enlargement of the scope of Section 138 posterior to the pronouncement of the SC in M/s Laxmi Dyechem v. State of Gujarat[2] by encompassing the other additional grounds besides the two contingencies, envisaged under Section 138 upon which the cheque issued by the drawer for discharge of his legal obligations is likely to get dishonoured like issuing 'stop payment' instructions to the bank, on account of closure of bank account on which the cheque is drawn, mismatch of signatures with the specimen signatures available with the bank, inter alia other technical differences or indorsements upon which the cheque is returned unpaid by the bank, unless the contrary is proved as well as the presumption in favor of holder is rebutted by the bonafide drawer qua the sufficiency of funds or non-existence of any debt or liability for which the cheque was issued by the drawer under Section 139 of the NI Act at the trial by adducing cogent evidence, thereby fostering & preserving faith of creditors in the efficacy of banking operations and according credibility to frequent usage of negotiable instruments in business transactions. Lastly, this academic exercise would endorse the harmonious reading of Section 138 & Section 139 to vindicate the rights of the accused as well as to invoke deference to the statutory presumption in the favor of the holder epitomized in the scheme of the NI Act, 1881 and, moreover to delicately balance the statutory presumption envisaged under Section 139 with the quintessential rudimentary presumption of innocence until proven guilty of Criminal Law invoked in the regular trial to truly realize the objects of the NI Act 1881 and remedy the mischief which Section 138 seeks to obliterate, also thwarting any attempt of dishonouring the cheques issued by the drawer to discharge legal obligations as well as to stave off any possibility of Section 138 becoming a dead letter on the Statute book.  

Prolegomenon to the Financial Transactions in Cheques:

The law apropos negotiable instruments is the law of the commercial world legislated to facilitate the activities & transactions in trade and commerce and further, to bolster the efficacy of banking operations as well as to foster remittances through cheques to discharge debt obligations & liabilities eventually, not only inspiring confidence in creditors or payees but also dispelling their apprehensions qua the cheque being dishonoured upon presentment at drawer's bank on account of insufficiency of funds standing to the credit of drawer's account or the amount on the cheque being in excess of the amount arranged to be paid from the account by an agreement made with the bank. A Cheque is not any instrument of payment but is an instrument of credit which is drawn by a debtor on his account in the bank towards the discharge of an existing enforceable debt or liability towards the creditor. With the proliferation of transactions in trade and commerce, it became highly impractical to carry the fiat currency in bulk engendering a surge in transactions through cheques on account of being easily negotiated and passed from hand to hand. The negotiability of an Instrument connotes the transfer of the title in instrument that is either payable to bearer or to the order of a certain person[3] and therefore as a sequitur, implies the transferability of the debt obligation or liability, which the drawer of a cheque undertakes to discharge to his creditor. The other peculiar idiosyncrasy of an instrument of credit like a cheque which is negotiable through indorsements written at the back of the leaf of a cheque, is that it is payable only on demand from the date on which the cheque is drawn or the date which it bears as militated against a bill of exchange which may either be payable on demand or on the expiry of a certain period after date or sight.

The Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act 1988 was introduced to curb the malpractice of cheques being return unpaid bearing indorsements from the bank like 'insufficiency of funds' in the account of the drawer to honour the cheque upon presentment to the Bank for encashment. The amendment was sought to be brought to enhance the acceptability of cheque in settlement of liabilities & to bring credibility to the transactions effectuated through drawing cheques by making the drawer liable for penalties in case of bouncing of cheques due to insufficient arrangements made by the drawer, with adequate safeguards to prevent harassment of honest drawers.[4] Albeit, the offence under Section 138 is given a criminal colour by incorporating a sentence for two years or fine which may be twice the amount covered by the cheque, but in essence the offence is civil in nature as its repercussions are usually confined to the private parties involved in commercial transactions. Perhaps, the complainant's interest lies primordial in recovering the money given rather than incarceration of the drawer of a cheque. So, therefore, 'the threat of jail' is only a method for effecting recovery.[5] Recourse to bringing the offender to punitive liability under Section 138, which is a penal rather than restitutive provision is much to be attributed to complainant's compulsion spurring out of exhausting the opportunity accorded to the defaulter to repay the cheque amount within the stipulated period of 15 days and the cantankerous conduct of the defaulter to elude the penal liability by employing picayune ploys or dilatory tactics so as to mire the proceedings under Section 138 of the NI Act with prolixity. Hence, it may be indubitably averred that the offence of dishonor of cheques can best be described as a regulatory offence that has been encapsulated on the statute books so as to sub-serve the public interest in ensuring the credibility of negotiable instruments along with providing adequate safeguards for accused to issue a cheque de novo to discharge his obligations within 15 days from the receipt of the statutory notice of demand given by the payee or holder in due course, failing which the complainant is accrued with a cause of action to lodge a complaint under Section 138 of the NI Act as well also to discredit the presumption drawn by the court under Section 139 against him in the trial by adducing cogent evidence.

Owing to the growing incidence of cases of dishonor of cheques, it became all the more necessary to provide for strict liability attuned with the legislative intent as reflected by the words employed in Section 138 as it provided for inflicting a punitive sanction to curb the malaise of bouncing of cheques on account of insufficiency of funds to not let the defaulters be scot-free trying to evade the conviction under the aforesaid provision. Henceforth, the criminal colour accorded to Section 138 by incorporating a punitive liability for the drawers of a cheque in discharge of whole or in part of their debt obligation or liability, has essentially deterred the callous attitude of the drawers to issue a cheque for want of funds to honour the same upon presentment to the bank for encashment eventually preserving the faith and trust of creditors on the credibility as well as efficacy of such negotiable instruments of credit like a cheque to ensure the banking operations sans any bottlenecks.

Offence of Dishonor of Cheques under Section 138 of the NI Act: A Conspectus & a Bird's eye view

The offence perpetrated under Section 138 creates a strict liability against the drawer of a cheque issued in discharge of whole or a part of a debt or liability, and is a quasi-civil and criminal in nature.[6] Moreover, the offence made out under Section 138 is very peculiar as it detracts from the cardinal rudiments of criminal law as well as contract law. A third party is precluded to step into the shoes of the complainant unless authorized in that regard by way of giving an Authorization Letter or Power of Attorney as the case may be, whereas a third party can be the complainant qua a traditional offence. The most cherished principles of presumption drawn under criminal law of the innocence of the accused until proven guilty, is also not applicable qua an offence of dishonor of cheque due to the reverse onus provision contained in Section 139 as well as Section 118 of the NI Act wherein the burden of proof is on the accused to rebut the presumption, of a cheque being drawn to discharge existing debt or liability, in favour of the holder of an instrument. Section 118(a) signifies a significant departure from the general principles applicable to contracts as the complainant, in contrast to a party to a contact in a suit to enforce a simple contract wherein the plaintiff has to aver in his pleadings the accrual of cause of action as well as the factum that it was made for good consideration, does not necessarily have to spell out the accrual of cause of action as well as that the cheque drawn by the debtor is supported by consideration in the averments contained in the complaint and a mere omission of not explicitly mentioning such grounds upon which the complaint is instituted under Section 138 would not therefore exonerate the drawer from its liability under the aforesaid provision.

The genesis of the offence perpetrated under Section 138 of the NI Act is governed by the highly acclaimed rule of estoppel which is ingrained in the remedy that it accords to the holder or a holder in due course of a cheque to mitigate the mischief, of drawing a cheque by the defaulters and thereby inducing the payee or holder in due course to act upon it by presenting the cheque for encashment, within six months from the date when the cheque was drawn or its specific validity period, whichever is earlier. Therefore, if a drawer seeks to discharge his legally enforceable debt by drawing a cheque on his banker, upon which the payee or holder in due course consequently alters his position by presenting it to the drawer's or the drawee's bank as the case may be, the liability of the drawer under Section 138 gets immediately attracted.

Black's Law Dictionary defines 'dishonor' qua a negotiable instrument as being a situation whereby payment is refused or cannot be obtained when duly presented.[7] On bare perusal of Section 138 of the NI Act, it may be inferred that Section 138 envisages two contingencies upon, which a cheque may be returned unpaid and eventually the defaulter can be prosecuted under the aforesaid provision either, if the amount of money standing to the credit of the drawer of the cheque is insufficient to honour the cheque or the amount covered by the cheque is in excess of the amount arranged to be paid from that account by an agreement with the bank. A complaint under Section 138 must contain factual allegations constituting each of the ingredients of the offence under Section 138, upon which the cause of action to file a complaint accrues to a payee or holder in due course against the erring drawer. These ingredients run as thus:

  • That a person drew a cheque on an account maintained by him with the banker;
  • That such a cheque when presented to the bank is returned by the bank unpaid;
  • That the dishonored cheque was presented to the bank within a period of six months from the date it was drawn or within the period of its validity whichever is earlier.
  • That the complainant has demanded payment of cheque amount by issuing a statutory notice, within 30 days of receipt of information by him from the bank qua the dishonor of the cheque, and;
  • That the drawer failed to pay the cheque amount within 15 days of receipt of notice of demand issued by the complainant or payee.

Besides, the aforesaid ingredients there are certain implied ingredients that must be fulfilled in order to launch a prosecution against the drawer of the cheque under Section 138 NI Act. Execution of an instrument of credit or a cheque by the drawer of the cheque by affixing his signature is a sine qua non for bringing an action against him under Section 138 of the NI Act, 1881. Therefore, only a duly executed cheque with the signature of the drawer affixed on it shall be amenable to dishonor under Section 138 & once the complainant establishes the execution of the cheque and its consequent delivery to the accused, the presumption in favour of the complainant/payee both in the terms of Section 118 as well as Section 139 would be triggered, unless the aforesaid presumption is discredited by the accused by adducing rebuttal evidence at the trial. The burden on the accused to lead defence evidence to rebut the presumption drawn by the court in favour of the complainant/payee is not premised on creating a doubt in the mind of a judge so as to be catapulted to acquittal as in a quintessential trial but, is to be discharged through adducing satisfactory evidence which must satisfy the mind of a prudent person upon preponderance of probabilities and therefore, the accused may discharge the onus of rebutting the presumption under Section 139 by adducing a probable defence at the trial that has the potentiality of tilting the scales in his favour.[8] Moreover, unlike other offences, wherein the guilty mind viz. mens rea is an indispensable ingredient, however in a significant digression from the generic offences, the offence enumerated in Section 138 of the negotiable instruments act does not encapsulate mens rea of the drawer as it inflicts strict liability on the drawer for dishonoring of cheque on account of the contingencies contained in Section 138 of the Act. The aforesaid proposition may also be buttressed by the expression "that the drawer had no reason to believe" occurring in Section 140 that explicates about the impermissibility of mens rea whilst adducing defence evidence in any prosecution under Section 138 of the NI Act.

Furthermore, the Payee or holder in due course may avail himself of two disparate remedies simultaneously viz., filing of the suit for recovery of dues under Order 37 CPC and also bringing the offender to penal liability under Section 138 and therefore, enforcement of the liability through the civil court would not perhaps, preclude or be an embargo to proceed against the defaulter for the offence punishable under Section 138 of the Act. At most, such an enforcement of the liability or the realization of outstanding dues through the civil court may be taken as an imperative factor at the stage of sentencing in the criminal proceedings under Section 138 of the Act by the court.

Enlargement of Scope & Contours of Section 138 of the NI Act posterior to the SC's ruling in M/s Laxmi Dyechem v State of Gujarat:

Any penal provision is amenable to a strict or literal interpretation so as to ensure that no great prejudice is caused to the accused in a trial eventually leading to travesty of justice, but adopting such an interpretation of Section 138, which thus is an economic offence, would mean an unwarranted carte blanche for the accused to come up with pedantic grounds that may not befit the two contingencies engrafted in Section 138 to eventually evade conviction under Section 138, thereby rendering the object to stifle the mischief it seeks to stave off otiose. Therefore, it would be fallacious to employ a strict construction of Section 138, especially giving due regard to the object of the Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act 1988 as also, the deeming fiction created in the aforesaid section, which is generally employed by the drafters of a statute to give it an expansive meaning as warranted by the exigencies of the facts and circumstances of a case accords leeway to circumscribe not only those contingencies inscribed in Section 138 upon which a cheque would be dishonored but also such indorsements returned unpaid by the bank that may not otherwise amount to dishonor, unless coupled with an oblique motive to protract payments so that such may lapse upon presentment to the bank and of course, the deficiency of funds to the credit of the drawer's account to honor the cheque. Admittedly, the cheque upon presentment for encashment at the bank may be returned unpaid for myriad reasons other than 'insufficient funds' which may include indorsements like 'Account closed', 'mutilated', 'Drawer's signature incomplete/illegible', 'mismatch of signatures', inter alia, other technical grounds which might inevitably result into dishonor of cheques. However, the most pertinent ground and perhaps, the fulcrum of the prosecution case against the drawer for dishonor of cheque is that of insufficiency of funds to the credit of drawer's account to honor the cheque. The conundrum, as to whether the dishonest or circuitous ploys employed by the drawer in order to overcome the two contingencies mentioned in Section 138 and also if any indorsement falling outside Section 138 would tantamount to dishonor of the Instrument, came before the SC in M/s Laxmi Dyechem v State of Gujarat[9], wherein the court was hearing a criminal appeal directed against the orders rendered by the High Court of Gujarat whereby it was barraged with an issue as to whether dishonor of cheque on the ground that the signatures of the drawer did not match with the specimen signatures available with the bank would attract the penal liability under Section 138, notwithstanding that such a ground ill behoves the contingencies enumerated under Section 138 of the Act. The strict interpretation of Section 138 of the NI Act, adopted by the High Court of Gujarat averring that the dishonor of cheque on indorsement such as 'drawer's signature differs from the specimen supplied' or 'incomplete signature/illegible' will not attract ingredients of Section 138 of the Act and also that insufficient funds as a ground for dishonoring cheque cannot be extended so as to encompass indorsements like 'mismatch of signatures' or the like pedantic grounds, was held to be flawed and erroneous and was thus, denounced by the apex court as being incongruous with the object of interpolating Chapter-XVII into the statute book to foster the credibility & acceptability of cheques as a viable instrument of credit as well as to bring erring and dishonest drawers to penal liability under the aforesaid chapter.

The ratio applied by the SC, to repudiate the reasoning rendered by the High Court of Gujarat after placing reliance on one of its own pronouncements rendered in Vinod Tanna & Anr v. Zaheed Siddique & Ors[10], was hinged on construing the expression 'amount of money standing to the credit of that account is insufficient' occurring in the textual scheme of Section 138 so as to constitute the ground of insufficiency of funds as a broad genus, of which other pedantic or technical indorsements or reasons of dishonor for instance, 'account closed', 'payment stopped', 'signatures mismatch', 'illegible signature' or like, are merely its species or offshoots. Therefore, the Supreme Court in Laxmi Dyechem by reiterating the aforesaid principle espoused in NEPC Micon Ltd. v. Magma Leasing Ltd[11], found itself in chime with the verdict in NEPC Micon, wherein the enigma, vis-à-vis conflicting views taken by various High Courts in apropos of the conundrum as to whether cheque being returned unpaid by the bank bearing indorsement 'account closed' would tantamount to dishonor of cheque within the meaning of Section 138, was demystified. The SC in Micon whilst spurning the argument advanced by the appellant company of strict interpretation of the penal provision contained in Section 138, explicitly expounded that the cheques returned unpaid by the bank with an indorsement 'account closed' would well behove the mischief Section 138 seeks to obliterate and also found this factum to be buttressed by the presumption triggered against the accused under Section 139 of closing his account as one of the modus operandi through which he can render his account deficient to honor the cheque drawn by him, unless rebutted by an honest drawer for bonafide reasons by justifying it with cogent evidence at the trial.

Similarly, the statutory presumption under Section 139 may also be triggered for preemptory action of the drawer to issue a notice to the drawee or to his bank for stoppage of the payment to avert the possibility of cheque being dishonored upon presentment for encashment eventually to evade the shackles of the punitive measures of Section 138 of the act. Such a preemptory action of issuing stop payment instructions may inevitably result not only into an eventual dishonor of cheque but also a breach of the promise which is concomitant with the solemn instrument of cheque that the same shall be honored for encashment. The law laid down in Electronics Trade & Technology Development Corporation Ltd. v Indian Technologies and Engineers[12] was held to be per incuriam and consequently overruled in Modi Cements Ltd. v. Kuchil Kumar Nandi[13], wherein the court approbated the submission that the stop payment instructions, issued by the drawer to clothe his mischief albeit with a sincere concern to stave off the possibility of dishonor of cheque as well as to dodge the incarceration under Section 138, would attract the mandate of Section 138 if found to be in tandem with the factum of paucity of funds of the drawer to honor the cheque. The Supreme Court in Modi Cements also expressed its anguish by averring that if such preemptory actions of the drawer by issuing stop payment instructions are allowed then it would accord an incentive to dodge the penal liability notwithstanding the effect of the deeming fiction created by the expression 'shall be deemed to have been committed an offence' occurring in Section 138, and would thus be contrary to the spirit as well as object of 1988 Negotiable Instruments Laws Amendment Act to interpolate Sections 138 & 139 into the statute book, thereby rendering Section 138 a dead letter. In the same vein, the court whilst discerning the analogous conundrum of whether issuance of stop payment instructions would fall within the ambit of Section 138 in M.M.T.C. Ltd. v Medchl Chemicals & Pharma (P) Ltd & Anr.[14] upon answering the aforesaid question in affirmative, embarked onto adumbrating that notwithstanding whether the drawer issued stop payment instructions to the bank or not, the court is bound to presume that the cheque whose dishonor is being alleged was received by the holder for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or liability. Therefore, even upon issuing stop payment instructions to the bank to stave off the dishonor of cheque, the drawer shall not be exculpated of the statutory presumption under Section 139 drawn against him to discharge the burden casted upon him to rebut such presumption, whilst also taking into consideration the factum that it is neither incumbent on the holder in due course or payee nor he is obliged to inform the drawer before presenting the cheque for encashment at the bank. Additionally, the Supreme Court upon relying on its own verdict in M.M.T.C. Ltd, affirmatively asserted in Goaplast Pvt. Ltd. v. Chico Ursula D'Souza & Anr[15], that in the ordinary course, the stop payment instruction is issued to the bank by the account holder when there is no sufficient amount in the account. However, such a presumption drawn by the court is open to rebuttal by the accused under Section 139 to establish by adducing cogent evidence that the alleged dishonor is perhaps not due to insufficiency or paucity of funds at the time of issuing of stop payment instructions to the bank or on the date of presentation of the cheque to the bank for encashment but instead for bonafide concerns for instance, non-performance of the contractual liability resulting into breach of contract etc. Therefore, it is no longer res integra that issuance of stop payment instructions to the bank by the drawer does not preclude the complainant/holder in due course to proceed against him under Section 138 as well as for the court to draw a statutory presumption against the drawer under Section 139 unless it is rebutted or disproved by him to discharge his burden of proof at the trial. Henceforth, as a sequitur to the foregoing disquisition on case laws, it may indubitably be adumbrated that there has been an enlargement of umbrage of Section 138, posterior to the SC's pronouncement in Laxmi Dyechem which now stands not only confined to the contingencies engrafted in Section 138 but perhaps also encompasses the exigencies, of cheque being returned unpaid by the bank bearing indorsements 'account closed', 'payment stopped by drawer', 'mismatch of signatures' or like pedantic grounds, that may augment the predicaments of the complainant/payee who are induced to present a cheque at the bank for payment of his debt obligations or liability, upon a belief that there would be sufficient funds standing to the credit of the drawer to honor the cheque, it is thus, due to this solemn belief/faith or promise that legislature sought to stifle the mischief of the dishonesty on the part of the drawers of cheques of despite being apprised of deficiency of funds in their bank accounts and yet issuing a cheque, by incorporating penal as well as strict liability of such defaulters under Section 138. Verily, the presumption of having the cheque issued to discharge an existing legally enforceable debt or liability under Section 139 coupled with the object of interpolating chapter XVII by the Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988 would herald that if any act purported to be done or omitted to be done with the purpose of preventing the honor of a cheque issued by the drawer upon presentment by the payee/complainant at the bank, albeit not behoving the two contingencies enumerated in Section 138, would still necessarily fall within the umbrage of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act to inflict penal repercussions on the errant drawers.

Furthermore, upon harmoniously construing Sections 138 & 139 it would indefatigably lead credence to an inference that the rights of complainant as well as the accused are vindicated in an even manner by the Negotiable Instruments laws (Amendment) Act, 1988, whereby on one hand it has interpolated Section 138 in the NI Act to bring dishonest drawers to strict liability as well as penal consequences so that it may deter such drawers to be highly diligent while issuing cheques in lieu of existing legally enforceable debt or liability, despite apprised of paucity of funds to honor the same, and in the same vein also appended a proviso with Section 138 which accentuates adequate safeguards for honest drawers who may be falsely implicated under Section 138 on account of dishonor of cheque for reasons other than arising out of dishonest intentions to establish their bona fides by virtue of the said proviso, which envisages a mandatory service of notice by the payee/complainant upon the drawer within 30 days of receiving information of dishonor of cheque from the bank, thereby according an opportunity to a bonafide drawer to honor his commitment as well as discharge his liability by issuing a cheque de novo within 15 days of receipt of such notice served by the payee/complainant, only upon failing which the penal ramifications under Section 138 may ensue upon him.[16] Perhaps, the Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act of 1988 which made the economic offence perpetrated under Section 138 a compoundable offence, brought additional respite to the bonafide drawers, as they may now endeavor to mutually reach a conclusive settlement with the complainant/payee so as to remit his outstanding dues sans having recourse to incarceration of the drawer. Hence, a penal recourse or prosecution against the errant drawer of the cheque, which is alleged to have bounced, can be initiated only after the pre-requisites enumerated in the proviso appended with Section 138 are exhausted.    

Epilogue:                

Over the course of few years, the growing incidence of cheques being dishonored as well as the procedural infirmities in the implementation of Section 138 has often vilified the credibility of the solemn instrument of cheque, much to be attributed to the insouciant attitude of the magistrates towards procuring the attendance of the accused in person at trials arising out of NI Act inevitably ensuing into the proceedings under Section 138 of the Act being suffused with prolixity and unwarranted entertainment of mechanical or infructuous objections advanced by the drawer. This, perhaps, has engendered a substantial surge in the court's docket which would not have been anticipated by the legislators before bringing the 1988 Amendment Act into the statute book, invariably to have their efforts, for attempting to curb the malaise of dishonor of cheque by inflicting punitive measures to the defaulters under Section 138, going down the drain. The court's dereliction of their duty to expeditiously dispose of the matters arising out of the NI Act and other concomitant impediments in realizing the object, with which Chapter XVII was interpolated by the 1988 Amendment Act, have prompted the various corporates and other stakeholders involved in the course of business transactions to switch to other transparent, expeditious, reliable and viable modes of transfer, which are newly spawned mechanisms of transferring funds from one account to the other, namely RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) & NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer), which have substantially impacted the business transactions conducted through cheques rendering the payments through cheques into disuse, of late.

The liberal and expansive construction employed by the Bench in Laxmi Dyechem, by enlarging the scope of Section 138 beyond the two contingencies engrafted therein sans belittling the deeming fiction created thereunder have changed the interpretive contours as well as the dynamics of prism through which judges hitherto construed the semantics of Section 138. Therefore, pronouncement in Laxmi Dyechem has attempted to avert any possibility of the object of the 1988 Amendment Act from being frustrated by the circuitous and picayune ploys of the dishonest drawers which thus seems to be a welcoming step in the direction of ameliorating the acceptance & credibility of transactions through cheques as well as restoring faith of creditors in the banking operations which seems to be waning with the passage of time, owing to the large number of cheque bounce cases, and also especially when such waning faith in the credibility of Negotiable Instruments like cheques have engendered frequent use of RTGS or NEFT, further heralding that these newly spawned technological mechanisms may soon supplant the acceptance & credibility of cheques as valid negotiable instrument of credit. Hence, the changed interpretive contours of Section 138 posterior to the verdict of Laxmi Dyechem have immensely played an imperative role in inflicting the penal liability on those defaulters, who would otherwise have absconded the shackles of Section 138, had there been strict interpretation employed to construe the purport of Section 138, in order to clinch the object of 1988 Amendment Act of preserving the confidence and faith of creditors in the acceptance as well as credibility of business transactions through cheques as a valid negotiable instrument of credit.            

Bibliography:

  • Books:
  • Bhashyam & Adiga's , 'The Negotiable Instruments Act', 22nd Edition, pp 780-823, (2019), Bharat Law House Publications, New Delhi.
  • ML Tannan's, 'Banking Law & Practice in India', 27th Edn., Vol.2., (2019), Lexis Nexis Publications, Gurgaon, Haryana.
  • ML Tannan's, 'Banking Law', 1st Edn., Student's Edition, pp 424-429, (2016), Lexis Nexis Publications, Gurgaon, Haryana.          


[1] (2012) 13 SCC 375.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Section 14 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

[4] Preamble to the Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988.

[5] Bhashyam & Adiga's , 'The Negotiable Instruments Act', 22nd Edition, (2019), Bharat Law House , New Delhi.  

[6] Ibid.  

[7] Black's Law Dictionary, 11th Edition, (2019), Thomson Reuters.

[8] ML Tannan's, "Banking Law", Student Edition, First Edition, (2016), Lexis Nexis.  

[9] Supra Note 1.

[10] (2002) 7 SCC 541.

[11] (1999) 4 SCC 253.  

[12] (1996) 2 SCC 739.

[13] AIR 1998 SC 1057.

[14] (2002) 1 SCC 234.

[15] (2003) 3 SCC 232.

[16] Supra Note 8.      


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