Offence Under Section 138 Negotiable Instrument Act – Jurisdiction

(1)An offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instrument Act is committed no sooner a cheque drawn by the accused on an account being maintained by him in a bank for discharge of debt/liability is returned unpaid for insufficiency of funds or for the reason that the amount exceeds the arrangement made with the bank.
(2)Cognizance of any such offence is however forbidden under section 142 of the Negotiable Instrument Act except upon a complaint in writing made by the payee or holder of the cheque in due course within a period of one month from the date the cause of action accrues to such payee or holder under clause (c) of proviso to Section 138.
(3)The cause of action to file a complaint accrues to a complainant/payee/holder of a cheque in due course if —
(a)the dishonoured cheque is presented to the drawee bank within a period of six months from the date of its issue.
(b)If the complainant has demanded payment of cheque amount within thirty days of receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the dishonor of the cheque, and
(c)If the drawer has failed to pay the cheque amount within fifteen days of receipt of such notice.
(4)The facts constituting cause of action do not constitute the ingredients of the offence under Section 138 of the Act.
(5)The proviso to Section 138 simply postpones/defers institution of criminal proceedings and taking of cognizance by the Court till such time cause of action in terms of clause (c) of proviso accrues to the complainant.
(6)Once the cause of action accrues to the complainant, the jurisdiction of the Court to try the case will be determined by reference to the place where the cheque is dishonoured.
(7)The general rule stipulated under Section 177 CrPC applies to cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. Prosecution in such cases can, therefore, be launched against the drawer of the cheque only before the court within whose jurisdiction the dishonor takes place except in situations where the offence of dichonour of the cheque punishable under Section 138 is committed alongwith other offences in a single transaction within the meaning of Section 220(1) read with Section 184 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or is covered by the provisions of Section 182(1) read with Sections 184 and 220 thereof. Dashrath Rupsingh Rathod v. State of Maharashtra, 2014 (86) ACC 882.

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