Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of Somnath Sarkar vs Utpal Basu Mallick & Anr. on 7 October, 2013
1. Leave granted. The Appellant before us makes what is essentially a mercy plea – to reduce the sum of Rs.80,000/- imposed on him by way of compensation in lieu of the six months sentence of incarceration imposed by the Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta. The Appellant has admittedly issued a cheque in favour of the Respondent No.1- complainant for a sum of Rs.69,500/-, which cheque on presentation was dishonourned with the endorsement ‘insufficient funds’. After due compliance with the statutory provisions contained in the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (for short, ‘N.I. Act’) prosecution was commenced and the aforementioned punishment under Section 138 thereof came to be passed.
The payment of compensation amounting to Rs.80,000/- has admittedly been received by the complainant. The Appellant preferred an appeal to the Additional District & Sessions Judge, Calcutta who by judgment dated 5.7.2004 dismissed the appeal and ordered the Appellant to surrender within 15 days. In these circumstances, Criminal Revision Record No.2447 of 2004 was filed in the High Court of Calcutta which was pleased to substitute the six months’ sentence by an additional payment of Rs.69,500/-. C.R.R. No.2447 of 2004 was heard and decided along with C.R.R. No.2865 of 2004 also filed by the Appellant.
Accordingly, as against the cheque amount of Rs.69,500/- the Appellant is liable to the extent of Rs.1,49,500/-. Faced with the prospects of jail the Appellant had earlier agreed to payment of the additional sum of Rs.80,000/- and for these reasons his plea for reduction thereto was turned down by the High Court in the impugned order. The Appellant was directed to pay a sum of Rs.19,500/- by May 31, 2011 and the balance of Rs.50,000/- in five equal instalments thereafter. Unfortunately, despite repeated readings of the Orders and related documents, the total liability of the Appellant is not clear as also the payments made till date.
2. Although the learned counsel for the complainant has appeared before us and has endeavoured to persuade us to uphold the impugned order, we find it unnecessary to hear him since the complainant has indubitably already received the sum of the dishonourned cheque alongwith the compensation thereon aggregating Rupees Eighty Thousand.
3. It seems to us that since the Appellant has already faced prosecution in the Magistracy in which he presented virtually no defence, and has thereafter filed an appeal before the Sessions Court, and subsequently two Revisions before the High Court, the ends of justice will be met, were he be directed to pay a sum of Rs.20,000/- only, in default, of which he would be liable to undergo the punishment of simple imprisonment for a term of six months as imposed by the aforementioned Magistrate. The said payment should be made within eight weeks.
4. As already expressed, the language employed by the High Court in the impugned order raises a doubt as to the total liability of the Appellant. A perusal of the sentence passed by the Trial Court as well as the Sessions Judge while dismissing the Appeal also does not completely clarify the position. The cheque amount is Rs.69,500/- and in this regard a sum of Rs.80,000/- has been directed towards compensation which, by virtue of Section 357(3), Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) would be receivable by the complainant. It appears that this sum of Rs.80,000/- has been received by the complainant. The use of the word, ‘additional sum’ in the impugned order has led to considerable confusion. To put the matter finally at rest, we hold that the total compensation payable under Section 138 of the N.I. Act read with Section 357(3), Cr.P.C. is Rs.80,000/-. i.e., the cheque amount of Rs.69,500/- together with Rs.10,500/- which may be seen as constituting interest on the dishonoured cheque.
In the arguments addressed before us there appears to be no controversy that this sum has been duly paid to the Respondent-complainant. A reading of the impugned order appears to indicate that the payment of further sum of Rs.69,500/-, in the instalments indicated in that order would be over and above the said sum of Rs.80,000/-. This would violate Section 138 of
the N.I. Act inasmuch as it would exceed the double of the cheque amount. This leads us to conclude that the intention of the High Court was that upon deposit/payment of the further sum of Rs.69,500/- (in addition to the earlier sum of Rs.80,000/-), the sentence of imprisonment for six months would stand withdrawn. Learned counsel for the Appellant has fervently submitted that the Appellant is a man of limited financial means and this position has not been controverted. Palpably, the convict has filed appeals all the way to the Apex Court which would have entailed further expenses of no mean measure. We think that with the receipt of Rs.80,000/-, the complainant has received compensation for the dishonoured cheque as per the adjudication of the Trial Court. In these circumstances, any further payment would be in the nature of fine. Accordingly, we clarify that the Appellant must pay a sum of Rs.80,000/- receivable by the complainant within four weeks from today, if not already paid. The Appellant is also sentenced to payment of a fine of Rs.20,000/-, payable within eight weeks from today, and on the failure to make this payment, would be liable for imprisonment for six months. The Appeal is allowed in these terms.