In a boost to the lower judiciary bogged down by cheque bounce cases, Delhi High Court has directed local magistrates to return to complainants all pending cases that arose outside the Capital.
These are those cases where complainants, mostly banks and financial institutions, send notices from Delhi to those who issued the cheque but reside outside Delhi, sometimes as far away as Chennai and Bangalore.
The order is a major setback for financial institutions as from now they will have to file the case at the place where the accused resides or where the cheque bounced.
The Supreme Court had in 2009 held that mere issuance of a notice from Delhi will not confer territorial jurisdiction on the courts in Delhi to entertain a complaint under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act. But many magistrate courts held on to such cases.
The order came on a public interest litigation filed by Delhi High Court Legal Services Authority.
The body’s counsel Jyoti Singh said: “They (financial institutions) file these complaints for their own convenience without taking care of the jurisdiction of the courts here. In many cases the amount involved is less than Rs 5,000. It is sheer harassment, as the accused has to spend more money in reaching Delhi and contesting the matter.”
A bench of Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice Manmohan said: “We direct return to the complainants for presentation in the court of competent jurisdiction all those criminal complaints filed under section 138 of NI Act that are pending in magistrate courts in Delhi in which cognisance has been taken by them without actually having jurisdiction.”
The court gave the order after Delhi government counsel Nazimi Waziri, submitted he had no objection in this regard.
“The cheque bounce cases where Delhi courts have no jurisdiction have affected the work badly and the accused are suffering harassment as they have to travel long
distances at heavy costs to defend their cases,” the judges said.