No offence for dishonor of cheque under Section 138 

In the case where the Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 would deem to be committed if the cheque that is dishonoured does not represent the enforceable debt at the time of encashment.

The Court has further explained that if the drawer of the cheque pays a part or whole of the sum between the period when the cheque is drawn and when it is encashed upon maturity, then the legally enforceable debt on the date of maturity would not be the sum represented on the cheque.

When a part or whole of the sum represented on the cheque is paid by the drawer of the cheque, it must be endorsed on the cheque as prescribed in Section 56 of the Act. The cheque endorsed with the payment made may be used to negotiate the balance, if any. If the cheque that is endorsed is dishonoured when it is sought to be encashed upon maturity, then the offence under Section 138 will stand attracted.

The Court was deciding the case where the respondent had made part-payments after the debt was incurred and before the cheque was encashed upon maturity. The sum of rupees twenty lakhs represented on the cheque was not the ‘legally enforceable debt’ on the date of maturity. Thus, it was held that the respondent cannot be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 138 of the Act when the cheque was dishonoured for insufficient funds.

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