Dishonoured cheque cases plague Delhi courts

December 9th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) A staggering 500,000 cases of dishonoured cheques - many for amounts less than Rs.1,000 - are cluttering the five courts in the national capital, forcing judges to postpone the hearing of some to 2010.In a bid to reduce the increasing backlog of cases, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan had earlier this month inaugurated three evening courts that function for two hours on all working days.

The cheque bounce cases relate to section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Courts deal with cases where the cheque amount is upto Rs.25,000 and the complainant is a financial institution.

“These petty cases pose a great hurdle in the justice delivery system. It is disappointing to have a pendency of over 500,000 such cases in Delhi alone,” Balakrishnan said while inaugurating the evening courts.

He stressed that courts should not become collecting agents of money lenders and referred to Bangalore, where 7,000 dishonoured cheque cases were filed in a day.

In the case of Pidilite Industries Pvt Ltd, which filed a dishonoured cheque complaint against Rajiv Enterprises, the judge Metropolitan Magistrate Ashish Aggarwal gave the next date of hearing for September 2010 after one of the parties did not file its reply.

“Our court is so burdened with these cheque bounces cases that judges have no option but to give dates of 2010. Courts are cluttered with these petty offence files and we don’t have enough space to store them as well,” a court official told IANS wishing anonymity.

The growing cheque bounce cases has forced the Delhi Legal Services Authority to hold Lok Adalats (peoples’ court) regularly.

Balakrishnan also said that 160 additional posts were being created in the lower judiciary to clear a large number of pending cases.

Delhi High Court Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah has said that of the 900,000 pending cases in the magistrate’s courts in Delhi till October, more than 500,000 were related to bounced cheques, virtually choking the system.

“Most of the time, courts are held up in disposing of dishonoured cheque cases. Not only this, the amount in most cases is less than even a thousand rupees. The only solution to this is an early settlement through Lok Adalats or evening courts, or else courts will end up giving dates of two years later,” said Ramesh Gupta, a criminal lawyer.

“The act dealing with complaints of dishonoured cheques came into existence in 1995 and ever since a large number of people have resorted to legal action under it. These types of cases take a lot of time to settle, and as a result the case lingers on for years,” Gupta told IANS.

“The main reason for the increasing number of cheque-bounce cases is the emergence of more and more banks and commercial establishments. Many people are unaware of the technicalities of taking loans and fall into a trap and cannot repay or their cheque gets returned,”said Ashish Kulshrestha, a criminal law expert who deals with such cases.

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