On August 2, 2022, the Supreme Court of India in the case of, Noor Mohammed v. Khurram Pasha, (Criminal Appeal No. 1123 of 2022), has held that an accused cannot be deprived of his right to cross- examine witnesses of the complainant under Section 145 (2) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 on account of the failure of the accused to deposit the interim compensation under Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (“the Act”).
The Respondent had filed Complaint Case No. 244 of 2019 under Section 138 of the Act, before the Court of Senior Civil Judge & JMFC, Nagamangala (“Trial Court”) for the dishonour of a cheque amounting to Rs. 7,00,000 (Rupees seven lacs) issued by the appellant towards repayment of hand loan received by the Appellant from the respondent, due to “insufficient funds”. The Trial Court, vide order dated August 16, 2019 directed the appellant to deposit 20% (twenty percent) of the cheque amount as interim compensation under Section 143A of the Act within 60 (sixty) days, which was further extended by 30 (thirty) days, upon a request by the appellant. The appellant, however, failed to deposit the interim compensation as directed by the Trial Court.
The appellant filed an application under Section 145 (2) of the Act before the Trial Court seeking cross- examination of the respondent. Due to the failure of the appellant to deposit the interim compensation as directed by the Trial Court, the application of the appellant was found to be not maintainable and was dismissed by the Trial Court vide order dated October 25, 2019.
The complaint case No. 244 of 2019 was accepted by the Trial Court vide order dated November 29, 2019 and the appellant was found guilty under Section 138 of the Act. The Appellant was directed to pay a fine of Rs. 7,00,000 (Rupees seven lacs), in default whereof to undergo simple imprisonment for six months. While Rs. 5,000 (Rupees five thousand only) out of the afore-mentioned fine was directed to remitted to the State, the remaining sum of Rs. 6,95,000 (Rupees six lacs and ninety-five thousand) was directed to be paid to the Respondent as compensation under Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974 (“Cr.P.C.”).
The appellant preferred Criminal Appeal No. 190 of 2019 against the order dated November 29, 2019 before the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mandya, which Appeal was dismissed vide Order dated October 28, 2020. The Appellant thereafter preferred a petition before the Karnataka High Court, which was also dismissed vide order dated December 17, 2021. The Karnataka High Court also held that the conduct of the appellant in not depositing the interim compensation as directed, showed that the appellant was only interested in protracting the proceedings for one reason or the other.
The appellant, therefore, approached the Supreme Court by preferring the criminal appeal.
Submissions of the appellant:
Observations of the Court:
Decision of the Court:
The Supreme Court held that since the appellant was denied the right to cross-examine the respondent, the decisions rendered by the courts below suffered from an inherent infirmity and illegality. The Court, while allowing the appeal and setting aside the decisions of all three courts below, directed that the matter shall stand restored to the file of the Trial Court. The Trial Court was directed to permit the appellant to cross-examine the Respondent.
Please find attached a copy of the order.
This update has been contributed by Namitha Mathews (Partner) and Poorva Pant (Senior Associate).
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