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M/s Sai Auto Agencies, through its Partner, Dnyandeo Ramdas Rane v/s Sheikh Yusuf Sheikh Umar

    Criminal Appeal No. 835 of 2008

    Decided On, 08 February 2010

    At, In the High Court of Bombay at Nagpur

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE A.P. BHANGALE

    For the Appellant: R.N. Badhe, Advocate. For the Respondent: V.L. Navlani, Advocate.



Judgment Text

1. Heard learned counsel for the parties. Admit. Taken up for final disposal forthwith by consent of parties.


2. Appellant initiated prosecution for the offence punishable under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act against the respondent. By impugned judgment and order dated 23.9.2009 passed by the Judicial Magistrate, First Class (Court No. 2), Amravati in Summary Case No. 5716 of 2006, respondent-accused was acquitted. Therefore, this appeal.


3. According to the complainant, he is a Dealer in Tractors and Agricultural Equipments, such as, plough, cultivator panji etc. Accused is an agriculturist. There was business dealing between the two. On 22.11.2005 the complainant had sold 9 tine cultivator; 5 tine Panji and plough with two furrow respectively for Rs. 14,900/-, Rs. 13,500/- and Rs. 18,500/- (in all priced at Rs. 46,900/-) to the accused on credit. In order to make payment of the bill, accused issued cheque no. 933950 dated 22.11.2005 for Rs.46,900/- drawn on the Amravati District Central Cooperative Bank Limited, Branch at Anjangaon Surji in the favour of complainant. Complainant presented the said cheque for encashment through his bankers State Bank of India, Amravati Branch. However, the cheque was returned unpaid on account of insufficiency of funds. Complainant served the accused with legal notice dated 8.9.2006 and demanded payment of Rs. 46,900/-. Even though the accused received said notice on 11.9.2006, but instead of complying with the demand made therein, he issued false reply and that necessitated filing of complaint by appellant against accused.


4. It was the defence of accused that there was no such dealing, but he had agreed to buy a tractor and equipments for a total sum of Rs. 4,40,106/-. Five blank cheques were given only as a security for transaction between the parties. Complainant had already drawn sums of Rs. 50,000/- plus Rs.50,000/- by using two cheques and Rs. 10,106/- were paid in cash to him by the accused and he had mortgaged his land to raise loan of Rs. 3,30,000/-. Therefore, the cheque was not supported by any consideration. It was only a blank cheque.


5. It is contended by learned Advocate for the appellant that defence of the accused that blank cheque was issued only as a security, is no longer available to him in the light of decisions in Hiten P. Dalal v. Bratindranath Banerjee reported in 2001 AIR SCW 3861 and K. Bhaskaran v. Sankaran reported in 2000 (1) Mh.L.J. 193. Learned Advocate submitted that when the cheque in question was admittedly signed by the accused, statutory presumption operated against him as enacted in Section 118 of the Negotiable Instruments Act that the cheque was made or drawn for consideration on the date on which the cheques bears the date. There is further presumption that the holder of the cheque received the cheque for the discharge of any debt or any liability. Reference may be made to decision by the Constitution Bench in Dhanvantrai Balwantrai Desai v. State of Maharashtra reported in AIR 1964 SC 575 where the Apex Court reiterated the principle enunciated in State of Madras v. Vaidyanath Iyer reported in AIR 1958 SC 61 and clarified that the distinction between the two kinds of presumptions lay not only in the mandate to the Court, but also in the nature of evidence required to rebut the two. In the case of discretionary presumption, the presumption if drawn, may be rebutted by an explanation which ?might reasonably be true and which is consistent with innocence? of the accused. On the other hand, in the case of a mandatory presumption ?the burden resting on the accused person in such a case would not be as light as it is where a presumption is raised under Section 114 of the Evidence Act and cannot be held to be discharged merely by reason of the fact that the explanation offered by the accused is reasonable and probable. It must further be shown that the explanation is a true one. The words ?unless the contrary is proved? which occur in this provision, make it clear that the presumption has to be rebutted by ?proof? and not by a bare explanation which is merely plausible. A fact is said to be proved when its existence is directly established or when upon the material before it the Court finds its existence to be so probable that a reasonable man would act on the supposition that it exists. Unless, therefore, the explanation is supported by proof, the presumption created by the provision cannot be said to be rebutted. (See also, V.D. Jhingan v. State of UP reported in AIR 1966 SC 1762; Sailendranath Bose v. The State of Bihar reported in AIR 1968 SC 1292 and Ram Krishna Bedu Rane v. State of Maharashtra reported in 1973 (1) SCC 366). We will, therefore, have to consider whether in the case before us, the accused had supported his defence by any proof sufficient to rebut the presumption drawn against him. It is further submitted that exhibit 27 Invoice Credit dated 22.11.2005 was duly signed by the respondent-accused for having purchased the three agricultural equipments described therein in consideration of which Cheque No. 933950 was issued by the respondent/accused under his signature drawn on the Amravati District Central Cooperative Bank Limited, Anjangaon Surji Branch for a sum of Rs. 46,900/-. Learned trial Magistrate could not have ignored the documentary evidence of the transaction of credit-purchase of three articles made by the accused under his own signature. The cheque was dishonoured and, therefore, the respondent has committed deemed offence punishable under Section 138 of the Act. The accused did not establish that the tractor along with three agricultural equipments were brought by him for Rs. 4,40,106/-. Mere chit (exhibit 48) could not have been relied upon to hold that the transaction of sale of tractor and three agricultural equipments is one and the same and for Rs. 4,40,106/- only. Accused did not prove that the loan was obtained by him in the sum of Rs. 3,30,000/- as contended in defence to the complainant. Therefore, a chit (exhibit 48) was not sufficient enough to conclude that exhibit 28 cheque was not issued in lieu of the liability due from the accused.


6. On behalf of the respondent-accused, it is contended that exhibit 28 cheque was issued only as a security and there was no evidence to disclose that there was a discharge of liability by issuance of cheque. It is further submitted that the cheque (exhibit 28) disclosed that it was only a blank cheque and it was filled by someone other than the accused. So, it cannot be taken as the one issued in lieu of legally enforceable liability. Learned Advocate sought to rely upon the ruling in Krishna Janardan Bhat v. Dattatraya G. Hegde reported in (2008) 2 SCC (Cri) 166 to submit that the accused may rebut the statutory presumption without entering in the witness box and the evidence adduced by him is to be tested on the basis of preponderance of probabilities.


7. In the decision of the Apex Court in ICDS Limited v. Beena Shabeer reported in (2002) 6 SCC 426, the cheque given by a guarantor when bounced was found to be within the fold of Section 138 of the Act. Necessarily, the cheque given as a security, if bounced, shall be the subject-matter of a prosecution under Section 138 of the Act. So, the contention of the accused that cheque (exhibit 28) was given only as a security will not enable him to escape from the clutches of law. The Court below examined the evidence on record and found that exhibit 48, a chit was produced by the accused to show that the accused had paid Rs. 4,40,106/- and therefore the complainant did not prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. Learned trial Magistrate referred to the version put forward by the accused at exhibit 47 to believe that two unused blank cheques are still lying with the complainant which the complainant is likely to use and the complainant had already used two cheques to recover down-payment of Rs. 100,000/-. Therefore, it was taken that the complainant did not prove that the cheque was issued in respect of an enforceable liability and the accused was acquitted. Under Section 139 of the Act,it is provided, ?It shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the holder of a cheque received the cheque, of the nature referred to in Section 138 for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability?. The effect of these presumptions is to place the evidential burden on the accused of proving that the cheque was not received by the complainant towards the discharge of any liability, because both Sections 138 and 139 require that the Court ?shall presume? the liability of the drawer of the cheques for the amounts for which the cheques are drawn. As noted in State of Madras v. A. Vaidyanatha Iyer reported in AIR 1958 SC 61, it is obligatory on the Court to raise thispresumption in every case where the factual basis for the raising of the presumption had been established. It introduces an exception to the general rule as to the burden of proof in criminal cases and shifts the onus on to the accused. Such a presumption is a presumption of law, as distinguished from a presumption of fact which describes provisions by which the Court ?may presume? a certain state of affairs. Presumptions are rules of evidence and do not conflict with the presumption of innocence, because by the latter, all that is meant, is that the prosecution is obliged to prove the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The obligation on the prosecution may be discharged with the help of presumptions of law or fact unless the accused adduces evidence showing the reasonable possibility of the nonexistence of the presumed fact. In other words, provided the facts required to form the basis of a presumption of law exists, no discretion is left with the Court but to draw the statutory conclusion, but this does not preclude the person against whom the presumption is drawn from rebutting it and proving the contrary. A fact is said to be proved when, ?after considering the matters before it, the Court either believes it to exist, or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists?. Therefore, the rebuttal does not have to be conclusively established, but such evidence must be adduced before the Court in support of the defence that the Court must either believe the defence to exist or consider its existence to be reasonably probable, the standard of reasonability being that of the ?prudent man?.


8. Exhibit 27 is a Bill bearing No. 9/SI/33 issued from M/s Sai Auto Agencies, Amravati which was signed by the accused acknowledging the sale on credit which disclosed that there was transaction of three agricultural equipments between the complainant and accused. The transaction mentioned of the amount of Rs. 46,900/- due from the accused as on 22.11.2006. It is in the evidence of the complainant that the cheque bearing No. 933950 was drawn by the accused under his signature drawn on Amravati District Central Cooperative Bank, Branch at Anjangaon Surji for an amount of Rs. 46,900/- post dated 23.03.2006 so due from the accused. It is normal business dealings that the parties claim interest, but may not insist upon it when cheque for bill amount only was tendered. Therefore, it cannot be stated that the complainant had not proved that there was a valid liability.


9. Even if blank cheque has been given towards liability or even as security, when the liability is assessed and quantified, if the cheque is filled up and presented to the bank, the person who had drawn the cheque cannot avoid the criminal liability arising out of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.


10. Thus, none the contention raised by the accused can be accepted. The Court below erred in coming to the conclusion that the complainant has not proved that the cheque is supported by consideration.


11. Section 138 of the Act was enacted to punish unscrupulous drawers of cheques who, though purport to discharge their liability by issuing cheque, have no intentional of really to pay the amount, yet to fasten a criminal liability under the said provision, necessary ingredients of the section are to be satisfied.


12. On perusal of the provisions of Section 138 of the Act, it is manifest that to constitute an offence thereunder, the following ingredients are required to be filled :-


(i). A person must have drawn a cheque on an account maintained by him in a bank for payment of a certain amount of money to another person from out of that account.


(ii). The cheque should have been issued for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability.


(iii). That cheque has been presented to the Bank within a period of six months from the date on which it is drawn or within the period of its validity, whichever is earlier.


(iv). That cheque is returned by the bank unpaid, either because of the amount of money standing to the credit of the account is insufficient to honour the cheque or that it exceeds the amount arranged to be paid from that account by an agreement within the Bank.


(v). the payee or the holder in due course of the cheque makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving a notice in writing to the drawer of the cheque within 15 of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid.


(vi) the drawer of such cheque fails to make payment of the said amount of money to the payee or the holder in due course of the cheque within 15 days of the receipt of the said notice.


13. Being cumulative, it is only when all the aforementioned ingredients are satisfied that the person who had drawn the cheque can be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 138 of the Act. The evidence led by the complainant in this case was on all fours on the necessary ingredients, as aforesaid.


14. Under Section 139 of the Act, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the holder of a cheque received the cheque, of the nature referred to in section 138 for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability.


15. In the case in hand, it is clear from the facts, briefly noted, that the cheque in question was returned dishonoured with remarks, ?funds insufficient? (exhibit 31) that the complainant had sent demand notice in writing dated 8.9.2006 was sent by RPAD (exhibit 32) acknowledged by accused herein (exhibit 34). The act defaulted to pay. It must be borne in mind that Court should not adopt an interpretation which helps a dishonest evader and clips an honest payee as that would defeat very legislative measure. The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 was enacted to define and amend the law relating to Promissory Notes, Bills of Exchange and Cheques. Chapter XVII of the Act provides for penalties in case of dishonour of cheques for insufficiency of funds in the accounts of the drawer thereof. Indisputably, Chapter XVII which was inserted by the Banking Public Financial Institutions and Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988 (66 of 1988) and came into force on 1.4.1989, was incorporated to ?enhance the acceptability of cheques in settlement of liabilities by making the drawer liable for penalties in case of bouncing of cheques due to insufficiency of funds in the accounts or for the reason that it exceeds the arrangements made by the drawer, with adequate safeguards to prevent harassment of honest drawers.


16. It is in the aforementioned backdrop, we must notice the provisions of Sections 138, 139 and 142 of the Act. In this case there was really a presumption available in favour of the complainant in terms of Sections 118 and 119 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and against the accused, and the accused, who had admitted the dealings between the two and even the signature in Exhibit 28 cheque, has not discharged his burden to rebut that presumption. The suggestions put to the complainant in cross-examination were denied specifically. It made obligatory for the accused to establish his version in defence by adducing reliable and acceptable evidence apart from his bare interested words which remained uncorroborated. Sopan and Rameshwar referred to by the accused in his defence evidence as persons who offered to sell the Massie Ferguson Tractor with accessories for Rs. 4,40,106/- and allegedly helped him to obtain loan from the ICICI Bank and further defence that they were given cash sum of Rs. 10,106/- along with five blank cheques were neither summoned nor examined as witnesses. They were necessary witnesses. The Bill for purchasing the Tractor was not produced despite suggestion on behalf of the complainant that the said Bill mentioned the price of the Tractor only. When questioned under Section 313 Cr.P.C. about the evidence on dishonour of the subject cheque, the accused feigned ignorance vide question no. 3 and answer given was ?Mala Mahiti Nahi? (I do not know). In the result, it was not a bold, but a bald and baseless version which could not have unsettled the complainant?s otherwise strong evidence in support of the complaint. It was unreasonable and erroneous for the learned trial Magistrate to ignore all this.


17. In Arun v. State by Inspector of Police, Tamilnadu reported in (2008) 15 SCC 501, the Supreme Court observed in paragraph 18, thus :


?It is true that appellate court has full power to review, re-appreciate and re-consider the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded and its power to review and re-appreciate the evidence and come to its own conclusion is not controlled by any provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. This Court in more than one case cautioned that an appellate court, however, must always bear in mind that in case of acquittal, there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence is available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court. If two reasonable views are possible on the basis of the evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken by the trial court, it ought not to be disturbed.?


18. Learned Advocate for the respondent-accused made reference to the ruling in Union of India v. Balmukund and ors reported in (2010) CCR 101 (SC). In the context of the stringent provisions of the NDPS Act containing stringent provisions and drastic powers with the police officer investigating such cases, the Apex Court observed thus :


?41. Furthermore, we are dealing with a judgment of acquittal. The High Court, for good and sufficient reasons, had arrived at findings of fact both with regard to voluntariness of the purported confessions made by the respondents as also compliance of the mandatory statutory provisions vis-a-vis directions issued by the Central Government in making search, seizure as also taking of samples for the purpose of chemical examination been doubted, we do not see any reason why we should take a contrary view as it is well-known that the appellate court would not interfere with a judgment of acquittal only because another view is possible. On the other hand, if two views are possible, it is trite, the appellate court shall not interfere. (See Animireddy Venkata Ramana and ors v. Public Prosecutor, High Court of Andhra Pradesh (2008) 5 SCC 368).?


In Bhagwan Singh v. State of MP reported in (2002) 4 SCC 85 it is observed thus :


?On the basis of the pronouncements of this Court, the settled position of law regarding the powers of the High Court in an appeal against an order of acquittal is that the Court has full powers to review the evidence upon which an order of acquittal is based and generally it will not interfere with the order of acquittal because by passing an order of acquittal the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused is reinforced. The golden thread which runs through web of administration of justice in criminal case is that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. Such is not a jurisdiction limitation on

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the appellate court but a Judge made guidelines for circumspection. The paramount consideration of the court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided. A miscarriage of justice which may arise from the acquittal of guilty is no less than from the conviction of an innocent. In a case where the trial court has taken a view ignoring the admissible evidence, a duty is cast upon the High Court to reappreciate the evidence in acquittal appeal for the purposes of ascertaining as to whether all or any of the accused has committed any offence or not. Probable view taken by the trial court which may not be disturbed in the appeal is such a view which is based upon legal and admissible evidence.? 19. Thus, the appellate court do possess full power to review evidence to ascertain reasonableness in appreciation of evidence done by the trial Court. The appellate court has full power to review, reappreciate and reconsider the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded. Its power to review and reappreciate the evidence and to come to its own conclusion, is not controlled by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, such power is to be exercised cautiously so as not to disturb the acquittal based upon reasonable view because of basic presumption of innocence which became bolstered up further due to the judgment of acquittal in favour of the accused. 20. Necessarily to conclude the discussion, the prosecution succeeds. The judgment and order of acquittal is, therefore, set aside as the accused is found guilty of the offence punishable under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. However, instead of incarceration, the accused must make good the compensation payable to the complainant in view of Section 357 (3) Cr.P.C. Accordingly, the accused is sentenced as follows : (i). The accused shall undergo imprisonment for a day until the rising of the court below, as may be fixed by the trial court. (ii). The accused shall pay an amount of Rs. 46,900/- plus Rs. 10,000/- as compensation to the complainant/appellant within sixty days from today default whereof shall result in imprisonment for six months. (iii). The Court below shall execute this order. The appeal is allowed accordingly.
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