The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill was put forth before the Lok Sabha by the Finance Minister on January 2, 2018. It received the assent of the President and was notified in the Official Gazette on 02.08.2018 to become an Act called the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018 (No. 20 of 2018).
AIM - The Amendment Act aims to meet the following:
- Reducing the undue delay in the cheque dishonor cases and,
- Provision for payment of interim compensation to the complainants.
OBJECT - Ease of doing business is the main object of the Amendment.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill is produced herein below:
"The Central Government has been receiving several representations from the public including trading community relating to pendency ofcheque dishonour cases. This is because of delay tactics of unscrupulous drawers of dishonoured cheques due to easy filing of appeals and obtaining stay on proceedings"
Two new Sections i.e 143A and 148 have been proposed to be inserted under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 via the Amendment Act:
1. Section 143A- It empowers the Court to order the drawer of the cheque to pay Interim Compensation to the complainant:
- In case of a summary trial or a summons case, where the drawer pleads not guilty to the allegations made in the complaint, and
- In any other case, upon framing of the charges.
Quantum of Compensation - The compensation amount shall not exceed 20% of the amount of the Cheque.
On Acquittal - In case where the drawer is acquitted then the payee may be directed to refund the entire amount of interim compensation along with the RBI's Prevailing interest rate, to the drawer.
Time Frame - The interim compensation shall be paid within 60 days from the date of the order by the court which may be further extended by an additional period of 30 days, subject to the sufficient reasons being shown.
2. Section 148 – It empowers the Appellate Court to order payment pending the appeal against conviction under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
The Appellate Court may order the appellant to deposit an amount which shall be a minimum of 20% of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial Court.
This amount shall be in addition to the amount already paid by the appellant under Section 143A.
This deposit may be released by an order for payment to the complainant at anytime during the pendency of the appeal.
On Acquittal - In case of the appellant being acquitted, the court shall direct the complainant to refund the entire deposit amount along with the RBI's prevailing interest rate to the appellant.
Time Frame - The deposit amount shall be paid within 60 days from the date of the order by the court which may be further extended by an additional period of 30 days, subject to the sufficient reasons being shown.
The Amendment Act comes across as a relief for the Payee of the Cheque, who has to spend a significant amount of time and energy in the court to recover the money due to him in a Cheque bounce case.
It is pertinent to note that of late the recovery provisions have been strengthened so that business community is relieved and safeguarded from undue hardship.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.