The Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881 (“the NI Act”) came into being as an Act to define and amend the law relating to promissory note, bill of exchange and cheques etc. Pendency of NI Act cases in District Courts in Delhi is enormous. There is a need felt to dispose the cases in the speedy and expedient manner.
The situation being grim required innovative steps and use of technology within the existing legal framework for expediting the disposal of the cases. This is for the first time that a digital set-up has been introduced to hear and decide cases in criminal jurisdiction.
Delhi being the commercial hub in north witnessed enormous filings of Section-138 Negotiable Instrument Act (NI Act) Complaint. Cheque dishonor cases constitute around 42 per cent of all pending civil and criminal cases in Delhi. Pendency of NI Act cases in District Courts in Delhi is immense that remedial measures were urgently required and the legislature took action by introducing further amendments in the Act through the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002.
A Bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court led by then CJI HMJ SA Bobde with HMJ L Nageshwara Rao in case titled Makwana Mangaldas Tulsidas v. State of Gujarat and another SLP (Criminal) No. 5464 of 2016, on 05.03.2020 issued certain directions, a summary of which is as follows –
- High Courts to consider setting up of Exclusive NI Act Courts.
- Set-up Exclusive NI Act Courts where pendency is above standard figure.
- Formulate special norms for work assessment of Exclusive NI Act Courts.
- Use modern technology for making Paperless NI Act Courts.
- Arrange for online appearance of parties in addition to exploring the feasibility of dispensing personal appearance of accused.
- Prepare a status report of all directions issued and special measure adopted by High Court vis-a-vis NI Act Court with an aim to expedite adjudication and reduce pendency. This status report is supposed to be shared with the Supreme Court for adoption and implementation Pan India.
Concept of Digital NI Court:
Fresh e-filing of cheque-bouncing cases has become mandatory. Digital NI Act Courts being established under this Project shall try and dispose of all fresh NI Act complaints filed w.e.f. 17.11.2020 onwards in a totally paperless digital environment where hearings will take place by way of video conferencing.
Digital NI Act Court Project would require the complainants and their lawyers to file their complaints through e-Filing portal of e-Committee of Supreme Court of India. E-Sewa Kendra in district courts shall have dedicated facilitation counter in respect of NI Act Cases and shall render all necessary help to the advocates and litigants who are unable to file their complaints from their offices/homes.
Video Conferencing (VC) Court link on Cisco Webex (to be published on website). –On a scheduled date of hearing, Ld. Magistrate, Reader/Ahlmad, Court Stenographer, Litigants and their respective Lawyers can conveniently join the Digital Court Room by using only two links namely:
- Permanent Video Conferencing (VC) Court link on Cisco Webex (to be published on website).
- Permanent Digital File link on cloud accessible through internet (to be shared with concerned Advocates and Litigants by the Court)
However, in accordance with the standard operating procedure (SOP), original copies of documents or evidence such as the dishonored cheque, legal demand notice, dispatch receipts and service proof will have to be submitted to the court for safe custody.
Present Scenario of Digital NI Act Court:
Since, the Digital NI Act have been implemented and cases are now been filed in the e-mode, yet there is lot of improvement required in this instance and the courts are trying to regularize the proceedings in e-mode as like proceedings in physical mode.
The amendments to the NI Act are a great effort aimed at strengthening efficacy and expediency which will help in speedy disposal of cases and also discourage the frivolous and unnecessary litigation. The digitalization of NI Act courts is a positive step enhancing the credibility of cheques and would give encouragement to the trade and commerce.
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TEAM SIGMA LEGAL