Govt agrees to set up additional Courts for Cheque-Bounce Cases

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With nearly 1 crore cheque bouncing cases clogging the 3-tier Justice delivery system, the Centre in principle conveyed its agreement on Wednesday to the Apex Court for setting up of additional courts to exclusively deal with disposal of such litigation pending for years.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told a bench of CJI S A Bobde, & Justices L N Rao, B R Gavai, A S Bopanna & S R Bhat said the Central Govt in principle had no difficulty in agreeing with the legal proposition that additional courts could be set up exclusively for dealing with pending cases under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act.

However, he suggested that the modalities for the required number of courts, the procedure to be followed & to provide a mechanism that would not be taxing on the lawyers & litigants would have to be worked out by an expert committee. The bench agreed with the SG’s proposition & on his suggestion set up a jumbo committee headed by Ex-Bombay HC Judge R C Chauhan to give a report in this regard within 3 months. 

With the amicus curiae & Senior Lawyer Sidharth Luthra agreeing, the SC ordered that the committee would comprise additional secretaries in ministry of home affairs; departments of justice, corporate affairs, expenditure; a representative of Reserve Bank of India to be nominated by its Governor; a representative of Indian Banks Association (IBA) & the SG or his nominee.

The SC asked the SG to provide the names of the additional secretaries by Friday for issuance of formal orders. The five-judge bench said all the suggestions given by various stakeholders & advocates to the court, during the suo motu proceedings to deal with the monstrous pendency of cheque bouncing cases, would be considered in detail by the committee.

When over three crore cases are pending in the trial courts, HCs & SC, the CJI-led constitution bench in its order said, “In this suo motu initiated proceedings, this court is considering the great delays that are occurring in the disposal of cases under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act. In turn, these delays are creating a logjam in the courts at all three levels, particularly in the trial courts & the HCs. The pendency of these cases constitute 30% of the total pendency in courts.”

During the last hearing, the Department of Financial Services, through additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee, had told the SC that “one of the major factors for the high pendency is the delay in ensuring the presence of the accused before the court for trial. It is understood that most cases are pending due to absence of the accused. Under such circumstances, it is not clear how additional specific courts would provide a solution to the problem of the large number of pending cases.”

Amicus curiae Luthra had flagged the DFS view to the bench, which had read out the text of Article 247 of the Constitution that allowed establishment of additional courts for better administration of laws.

It said that “At the hearing of this matter, we have suggested that the Union of India may provide for establishment of additional courts for the better administration of laws i.e. the Negotiable Instruments Act, under Article 247”. 

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