“Negotiable Instruments Act cases account for 30 to 40 percent trial court pendency:” Supreme Court, Centre mooting committee to devise a solution3 min read

BY- HARDIK SINGH RATHORE

The Supreme Court on Wednesday strongly pitched the proposal to ascertain additional courts for tackling the burgeoning pendency of cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

In this regard, a Bench of justice of India SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna, and V Ramasubramanian adverted to Article 247 of the Constitution which lays down that Parliament may by law provide for the establishment of any additional courts for the higher administration of laws.

“At the hearing of this matter, we have suggested that the Union of India may provide for the establishment of additional courts for the better administration of laws i.e. the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (for short, the ‘N.I. Act’) under Article 247 of the Constitution of India,” the order gone the Court on Wednesday recorded.

The top court further stated that there was “no doubt or dispute about the very fact that matters under the N.I. Act have posed what by now has become an intractable problem/accounting for on the brink of 30 to 40 percent of the pendency within the trial courts and a high percentage in the High Courts also.”

The Court was hearing a suo motu case initiated by it to look at measures to make sure expeditious trial of cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

The Centre, however, opposed the thought of the Court with Additional law officer Vikramjit Banerjee informing the court that the Ministry of Finance wasn’t in favour of fixing additional courts. He instead highlighted alternate measures.

The Central government in Makwana Mangaldas Tulidas vs the State of Gujarat had stated that instead of additional courts “the root cause” could be targeted which was the delay tactics used by the accused. It stated that a penalty could be imposed for the non-appearance of the accused.

In a scenario in which the accused refuses to receive summons through post or courier, it was suggested that summons should be considered as served and courts should enter the appearance of the accused.

The Centre also proposed to cap the maximum number of hearings so that the accused do not use delay tactics. The top court rejected those suggestions stating that they weren’t “acceptable.”

Amici Curiae Siddharth Luthra and K Parameshwar also submitted their suggestions before the Court on measures to tackle delay. These include solutions touching upon various procedural aspects including service of summons, creation of a nodal agency for electronic service of summons, attachment of bank account to the extent of the cheque amount, avoiding mechanical conversion of the summary trial to summons trial, and use of mediation.

ASG Banerjee submitted that the matter requires wide-ranging discussion with various stakeholders and officers and secretaries of varied Ministries who are going to be ready to suggest an answer to the issues.

The top court found this suggestion of ASG acceptable and, therefore, directed the govt. to create a committee to deliberate on measures to scale back the pendency of cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

However, the Court stated that it’s necessary to possess a former judge, who has had wide-ranging experience as an attempt judge, on the Committee.

The matter is going to be heard again on Thursday when ASG Banerjee is predicted to return up with names of persons who might be a part of the committee.

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