Patiala House Courts, Delhi

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi: Prayank Nayak, MM-01 acquitted the accused of offence under Section 138 (dishonour of cheque) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1885, holding that the accused successfully dislodged the statutory presumption.

In the present matter, complaint was filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 for the dishonour of cheque for an amount of Rs 6,82,000 and failure to pay the said amount despite legal demand notice.

Path Paving to this Matter

Complainant had given a loan of Rs 6,82,000 to the accused in cash and later the accused had issued a cheque for the repayment of the loan. Though the same was dishonored upon its presentation and no payment was made despite the receipt of legal demand notice.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act consists of the following ingredients:

  1. The cheque was drawn by drawer on an account maintained by him with the banker for payment of any amount of money out of that account.
  2. The said payment was made for discharge of any debt for other liability in whole or in part.
  3. The said cheque was returned unpaid by the bank.
  4. The cheque was presented to the bank within a period of 3 months from the date on which it was drawn or within the period of its validity whichever is earlier.
  5. The payee or the Holder in due course of the cheque as the case may be makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving the notice in writing to the drawer of the cheque within 30 days of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid.
  6. The drawer of the cheque fails to make the payment of the said amount of money to the payee or as the case may be the Holder in due course of the cheque within 15 days of the receipt of the said notice.
  7. The payee or the Holder in due course of the cheque shall make a complaint in writing within one month of the date on which the Cause of Action arises i.e., 15 days from the receipt of the notice by the drawer.

In the present matter, it was noted that the receipt of legal notice was accepted and the duly replied and the dishonour memo issued by the bank was also placed on record.

Court stated that by virtue of Section 146 of NI Act, the dishonour of cheque in question had to be presumed.

Onus to prove

As per Section 118 (g) of NI Act, the holder of the cheque is presumed to be holder in due course, hence the accused has to prove that the cheque was not issued to the complainant.

Accused had admitted the signature on the cheque, thus presumption under Section 118(a) of the NI Act and Section 139 of NI Act will be drawn.

Delhi High Court’s decision in Devender Kumar v. Khem Chand,2015 SCC OnLine Del 12578, it was held that:

“However, in Rangappa v. Sri Mohan, (2010) 11 SCC 441, a three judges’ bench of the Supreme Court held that Section 138 of the N.I. Act includes the presumption enforceable debt or liability and that the holder of the cheque is presumed to have received the same in discharge of such debt or liability……. without doubt, the initial presumption is in favour of the complainant.” (Para 20).

Whether the accused has been able to dislodge the presumption of liability as well as issuance on the basis of cross-examination of complainant and the evidence led by him?

In the instant matter, it is very pertinent to note that there is no written/documentary proof of loan and the complainant has also not mentioned any date of giving loan amount.

Due to the above-stated observation, Bench stated that as there was absence of documentary proof as well as the date of giving loan, the whole case seems to be doubtful.

What all makes this case doubtful?

Court noted that complainant despite having friendly relations and extending friendly loan of large amount to the accused is not even aware about the name of wife of the accused nor could tell whether accused is having kids or not. Though it has been claimed by him that he knows the accused of around 5 years, but he has never gone inside the house of the accused.

The above stated makes it doubtful for the Court to believe that the relations between the parties were such that the complainant would lend the stated sum to the accused that too without any documentary evidence.

Discrepancy in complainant’s oral testimony and bank statement was found along with discrepancy in photocopy of his Balance-Sheet and certified copy of the same.

The above-stated discrepancies strike the root of the complainant’s case.

Complainant in his cross-examination admitted that he had to pay loans to various persons and institutions, this fact leads the Bench to the question of why a person himself being liable to pay loan to various persons would advance loan of more than Rs 6 lakhs to some other person.

Therefore, accused dislodged the presumption in favour of the complainant by impeaching his credit during cross-examination and due to the absence of documentary proof.

Complainant did not examine any witnesses to prove the loan transaction and the above discussion cast doubt over the complainant’s version that he had given loan to the accused.

In Delhi High Court’s decision, Kulvinder Singh v. Kafeel Ahmad, 2014 (2) JCC (NI) 100 it was observed that,

“The basis principle in Criminal law is that the guilt of respondent/accused must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and if there is slightest doubt about commission of an offence then the benefit has to accrue to him”.

 “…Benefit of doubt has to accrue to the accused.”

 Court acquitted the accused for the offence under Section 138 NI Act. [Balwant Singh v. Angad Makol, R. No. 55576 of 2016, decided on 5-10-2021]

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  • Lending without a money lender license is a criminal act and the lender must be dealt with accordingly as per law. Forget 138 the complainant can be locked up.

    • It is true that when a person says that he has given loan as a friend, 99.99% it is money lending case. Because no friend can lodge complain against a friend before the court of law to make punish him. It can be only money lender or any wrong person but not a friend. And also he file complaint without any documentation.

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