Supreme Court orders panel formation on pendency of cheque bounce cases

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a committee should be formed to resolve the problem of pendency of cheque bounce cases, which form 30% to 40% of the backlog in trial courts and a sizeable chunk of the pile-up in High Courts.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde is hearing a suo motu case on the high pendency of cheque bounce cases across the country.

The three-judge Bench did not agree with a March 2 memorandum of the Union Ministry of Finance suggesting alternatives to the apex court’s push for setting up additional courts to quickly hear and decide such cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

The court, instead, reminded the government of its obligation under Article 247 of the Constitution to establish additional courts for the “better administration of the laws of Parliament”.

Prima facie we are of the view that the Article confers a power coupled with duty on the Union of India to establish additional courts, for better administration of laws made by Parliament. There is no doubt or dispute about the fact that matters under the Negotiable Instruments Act have posed what by now has become an intractable problem accounting for close to 30 to 40 percent of the pendency in the trial courts and a very high percentage in the High Courts also,” the court order said.

The court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee to appear before it on March 4 to finalise the departments and officials who ought to be made part of the committee.

The Bench agreed with Mr. Banerjee that the “matter requires wide-ranging discussion of various stakeholders and officers and the secretaries of various ministries who will be able to suggest a solution to the problems of pendency of the cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act”. It said, “This suggestion is completely acceptable to us”.

The suo motu case was registered last year by the court to evolve a “concerted” and “coordinated” mechanism for expeditious disposal of cheque cases.

35 lakh such cases

The court had found that over 35 lakh cheque bounce cases were pending in various courts across the country. It had appointed senior advocate Siddharth Luthra and advocate K. Parameshwar as amici curiae in the suo motu case. It had sought responses from the Centre and other stakeholders, including the Reserve Bank of India.

The issue of prolonged litigation regarding dishonoured cheques came to the court’s notice when it was hearing a case dating back to 2005.

In its order in March 2020, the court said, “A recent study of the pending cases, reflects pendency of more than 35 lakh, which constitutes more than 15 percent of the total criminal cases pending in district courts. Further, there is a steady increase in the docket burden.”

The court had issued notices to the Centre, the registrar general of High Courts, director generals of police of States, member-secretary of the National Legal Services Authority, the RBI, etc.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 11:41:50 PM |

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