Supreme Court of India. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Feb 25 : Against the backdrop of staggering pendency of 35 lakh cheque bounce cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday suggested that the Centre examine the possibility of additional courts for speedy disposal of these cases.

The observation from a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, while hearing a suo motu case to work out a mechanism for expeditious and just adjudication of cases connected with dishonoured cheques.

The bench asked Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, representing the Centre, to inform it next week whether the Centre is keen on exploring the possibility of setting up additional courts under Article 247 for speedy disposal of cases under the Negotiable Instrument Act. Banerjee replied that he would seek instructions and inform the court on next date in the matter.

Citing judgments, the top court told Centre's counsel and senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appointed amicus curiae in the matter, that the legislature is duty bound to conduct an impact assessment before creating a new offence under the law.

Parliament, under Article 247 of the Constitution, has power to set up additional courts for the better administration of laws made by it or of any existing laws with respect to a matter enumerated in the Union List.

Citing the central negotiable instruments law, the bench queried if the government is under obligation for establishing additional courts to deal with cases falling under this Act. Suggesting a mechanism for fast-tracking these matters, Luthra said that many cheque bounce cases are stuck due to non-service of summonses and stressed these should be served electronically through e-mail or social media.

The top court will continue to hear the matter next week.

On January 19, the Supreme Court had asked various High Courts to submit their response in connection with its suo moto case on expeditious trial in cases where cheques have been dishonoured. States were asked to do so also, through their Directors General of Police.

It noted that amicus curiae have made submissions, the NALSA has submitted a report and the RBI has filed a reply to the preliminary report.

"On October 27, 2020, DGP of states were directed to respond with respect to service of summons. Only 7 DGPs have submitted response. Some High Courts have not filed response," it said.

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