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The right to cross-examine the respondent-complainant cannot be denied to the appellant under NI Act


The Supreme Court three-judge bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing an Appeal of the Appellant-Accused who had been denied avail the opportunity of taking cross-examine the Respondent-Complainant here under Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The Supreme Court bench observed that since the right to cross-examine, the respondent was denied to the Appellant, the decisions rendered by the Courts below suffer from an inherent infirmity and illegality.


After empowering the Court to pass an order directing the accused to pay interim compensation under Sub-Section 1 of Section 143A, Sub-Section 2 then mandates that such interim compensation should not exceed 20 per cent of the amount of the cheque. The period within which the interim compensation must be paid is stipulated in Sub-Section 3, while Sub-Section 4 deals with situations where the drawer of the cheque is acquitted. Said Sub-Section 4 contemplates repayment of interim compensation along with interest as stipulated. Sub-Section 5 of said Section 143A then states “the interim compensation payable under this Section can be recovered as if it were fine”. The expression interim compensation is one which is “payable under this Section” and would thus take within its sweep the interim compensation directed to be paid under Sub-Section 1 of said Section 143A.

The Apex Court noted that the remedy for failure to pay interim compensation as directed by the Court is thus provided for by the Legislature. The method and modality of recovery of interim compensation are clearly delineated by the Legislature. It is a well-known principle that if a statute prescribes a method or modality for the exercise of power, by necessary implication, the other methods of performance are not acceptable.


The concerned provision nowhere contemplates that an accused who had failed to deposit interim compensation could be fastened with any other disability including denial of the right to cross-examine the witnesses examined on behalf of the complainant. Any such order foreclosing the right would not be within the powers conferred upon the Court and would, as a matter of fact, go well beyond the permissible exercise of power, the Bench noted.


Three-Judge bench observed that since the right to cross-examine, the respondent was denied to the Appellant, the decisions rendered by the Courts below suffer from an inherent infirmity and illegality. Therefore, the Supreme Court allowed this appeal and set aside the decisions of all three courts with a further direction that Complaint Case No. 244 of 2019 shall stand restored to the file of the Trial Court. The Trial Court was directed to permit the Appellant to cross-examine the Respondent and then take the proceedings to a logical conclusion.


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