Supreme Court: In a case where an offender under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (NI Act) was denied the right to cross-examine a witness upon failure to deposit the interim compensation under Section 143A of NI Act, the bench of UU Lalit*, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ has held that any such order foreclosing the right would not be within the powers conferred upon the court and would, as a matter of fact, go well beyond the permissible exercise of power.

The Court, upon reading the provision in question, did the following pointwise break down of Section 143A of NI Act:

  • The Court can pass an order directing the accused to pay interim compensation under Sub-Section 1.
  • Sub-Section 2 then mandates that such interim compensation should not exceed 20 per cent of the amount of the cheque.
  • The period within which the interim compensation must be paid is stipulated in Sub-Section 3.
  • Sub-Section 4 deals with situations where the drawer of the cheque is acquitted. It contemplates repayment of interim compensation along with interest as stipulated.
  • Sub-Section 5 states that the interim compensation payable under this Section can be recovered as if it were a fine. The expression interim compensation is one which is “payable under this Section” and would thus take within its sweep the interim compensation directed to be paid under Sub-Section 1 of said Section 143A.

It was, hence, observed that the remedy, the method, and modality of recovery of interim compensation is clearly delineated by the Legislature.

“It is well known principle that if a statute prescribes a method or modality for exercise of power, by necessary implication, the other methods of performance are not acceptable.”

The Court was, hence, of the opinion that the concerned provision nowhere contemplates that an accused who had failed to deposit interim compensation could be fastened with any other disability including denial of right to cross-examine the witnesses examined on behalf of the complainant.

[Noor Mohammad v. Khurram Pasha, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 956, decided 02.08.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice UU Lalit

For appellant: Advocate Shailesh Madiyal

For Respondent: Advocate Anand Nuli

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