Following a directive from the Supreme Court (SC), the Maharashtra government has given its approval for setting up five special courts in the state – Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur – for speedy disposal of cheque bouncing cases under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
These courts will be set up on an experimental basis for one year, beginning September 1, and will be headed by retired judges. Each court will also be staffed with five retired judicial officers.
The directions came after the apex court, in March 2020, identified Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as states with the highest number of pending check-bounce cases. Until December 31, 2019, 35.16 lakh cases were pending, out of which 2.31 crore were criminal in nature.
Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh lauded the move and said, “Such cases are currently being directly put up before the magistrate courts by the aggrieved parties. As these are semicriminal cases, special courts will ensure their speedy disposal and the magistrate courts can focus on the disposal of other criminal cases.”
Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act attracts imprisonment for a term which may be extended to two years, or attract fine that may extend to twice the amount of the cheque, or both.