Gujarat HC: Use of Technology for Speedy Disposal of Dishonor of Cheque Cases

March 10, 2018

Case name: Sachin Singh Rakesh Singh Chauhan v. Tribhuvanbhai Bhailal Vasava & Anr.

Date of Judgment: February 19, 2018

In this present case, the Gujarat High Court took strong note of opponent-accused causing delay of proceedings under Section 138 of NI Act by adopting tactics for delaying service of notice.

Also read Notice of Dishonor of Cheque: Law and Important Judgments

In view such delay tactics adopted by accused, the High Court recommended that technological modes like e-mail and text messages to official mobile number shall be resorted to for service of notice. The High Court placed reliance on Supreme Court’s recent judgment in the case of Meters and Instruments Private Limited and Another vs. Kanchan Mehta Another[1], wherein the Apex Court directed all the Courts concerned to issue the summons by detailing the process for issuance of the summons online where the accused can pay the specified amount online and his personal presence can be dispensed with.

Read SC Issues Directions for Speedy Disposal of Dishonor of Cheque Cases

The Apex Court in the case emphasized on speedy disposal of cases under Section 138 of Negotiable Instrument Act and observed as under:

Speedy Disposal of cases under Section 138 of NI Act

 

The Supreme Court in the case took a strong note of increasing number of cases instituted under Section 138 of NI Act . The Court also stated that the magnitude of challenge posed by cases filed under Section 138 of the Act, which constitute about 20% of the total number of cases filed in the Courts (as per 213th Report of the Law Commission) and earlier directions of this Court in this regard, it appears to be necessary that the situation is reviewed by the High Courts and updated directions are issued.

Use of modern technology for speedy disposal of cases– The Court took into consideration use of modern technologies for enabling speedy disposal of cases under Section 138 of NI Act  and noted that use of modern technology needs to be considered not only for paperless Courts but also to reduce overcrowding of Courts. There appears to be need to consider categories of cases which can be partly or entirely concluded “online” without physical presence of the parties by simplifying procedures where seriously disputed questions are not required to be adjudicated. Traffic challans may perhaps be one such category.

Atleast some number of Section 138 cases can be decided online. If complaint with affidavits and documents can be filed online, process issued online and accused pays the specified amount online, it may obviate the need for personal appearance of the complainant or the accused. Only if the accused contests, need for appearance of parties may arise which may be through Counsel and wherever viable, video conferencing can be used. Personal appearances can be dispensed with on suitable self-operating conditions.

Other Directions Issued by the Court in the case

  • In every complaint under Section 138 of NI 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.
  • 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.

 

In view of Supreme Court’s observations in the case, the Gujarat High Court also advocated for use of technology for disposal of cases under Section 138 of NI Act and accordingly directed the accused to directly pay the amount in the bank account of the complainant.            

[1] AIR 2017 SC 4594