The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the constitution of special courts with a retired judge in five states starting September 1 for expeditious disposal of cheque bounce cases. A three-judge bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, B R Gavai, and S Ravindra Bhat said the special courts under the Negotiable Instruments Act (NI), would be set up in the states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in view of a large number of cases pending in these states.
“We have incorporated the suggestions of the amicus with respect to the setting up of the pilot courts and we have given the timelines also. It is to begin on September 1,2022 onwards. The secretary general of this court shall ensure that a copy of the present order is directly communicated to the registrar general of the said five high courts, which should put it before the chief justices for immediate action,” the bench said.
The top court incorporated the suggestion of the amicus curiae that five districts in each of the above States, where cases under the NI Act are high, can be selected and one court in each such district be established.
The apex court directed its secretary general to communicate the order to the registrar general of the high courts of these states while directing them to file an affidavit by July 21, 2022 on compliance.
The amicus had suggested having one court in one district with a retired judge as a pilot project.
The matter will now be heard on July 26.
The top court had earlier directed the Registrar Generals of all high courts to file a status report regarding the compliance of directions issued by it to expedite the trial of cheque dishonour cases under Section 138 of the NI Act.
Earlier, the apex court had come out with a slew of directions to ensure speedy disposal of cheque bounce cases across the country and asked the Centre to amend laws to ensure clubbing of trials in such cases if they are lodged against a person within a year related to the same transaction.
The top court in March 2020 had taken cognizance of the humongous pendency of cheque bounce cases and had come came out with the directions to ensure speedy disposal of such matters, which stood at 35.16 lakh as of December 31, 2019, out of a total of 2.31 crore pending criminal cases in the country.
Earlier, the top court had termed the pendency of over 35 lakh cheque bounce cases as grotesque and suggested the Centre come up with a law to create additional courts for a particular period to deal with such cases.
On March 5, 2020, the top court registered a suo motu case and decided to evolve a “concerted” and “coordinated” mechanism for expeditious disposal of such cases.