(1.) The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002 came into being to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 for a purpose. One of the objects to bong about the new legislation mentioned in the Objects and Reasons of the Act of 2002 was to provide for summary trial of the cases under the Act with a view to speeding up disposal of cases. The speedy and summary remedy provided was for a purpose to expeditiously deal with matters under the Negotiable Instruments Act in a time bound manner. It is unfortunate that in some cases, as one in hand, the entire purpose of the legislation has been defeated on procedural wrangles. Before introduction of the case, as a prelude in a drama and preface in a novel would be written, a period of fifteen years have already gone by. The parties to the litigation are at initial stage, as the case has not made any progress from the date of institution of the same.
(2.) When the petitioner filed a complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, hereinafter referred to as 'N.I. Act', before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kottayam, the same was admittedly within limitation. The first respondent entered appearance and contested the jurisdiction of the Kottayam Court to entertain the complaint. The objection raised by the 1st respondent was accepted and vide order dated 15.3.1996, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kottayam directed the parties to appear before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Ettumanoor on 12.4.1996. The complainant, however, received the complaint filed at Kottayam on 28.03.1996 and presented it in the Court of Judicial First Class Magistrate, Ettumanoor on 02.04.1996. On presentation of the complaint aforesaid, the 1st respondent, this time objected to continuance of the complaint on the ground that the same was barred by limitation. This objection was repelled, constraining the 1st respondent to file a revision, which was accepted, and thus the present revision by the petitioner.
(3.) Mr. Bechu Kurian Thomas, learned Counsel representing the petitioner vehemently contends that while holding that the petition filed or re-presented before the Ettumanoor Court on 2.4.1996 was barred by limitation, the learned Sessions Judge did not notice the basic provisions contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure dealing with jurisdiction to entertain a complaint. On the basis of the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to be referred hereinafter, it is the contention of the counsel that the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the District would have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint with regard to any area falling in that district. In view of the aforementioned contention of the learned counsel, it would be useful to take into consideration the relevant Sections, i.e. Sections 6, 11, 12 and 14, which read thus:
6. Classes of Criminal Courts.-- Besides the High Courts and the Courts constituted under any law, other than this Code, there shall be, in every State, the following classes of Criminal Courts, namely:
(i) Courts of Session;
(ii) Judicial Magistrate of the first class and, in any metropolitan area, Metropolitan Magistrate;
(iii) Judicial Magistrate of the second class; and
(iv) Executive Magistrates.
11. Courts of judicial Magistrates.-
(1) In every district (not being a metropolitan area), there shall be established as many Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the first class and of the second class, and at such places, as the State Government may, after consultation with the High Court, by notification, specify:
Provided that the State Government may, after consultation with the High Court, establish, for any local area, one or more Special Courts of Judicial Magistrate of the first class or of the second class to try any particular case or particular class of cases, and where any such Special Court is established, no other Court of Magistrate in the local area shall have jurisdiction to try any case or class of cases for the trial of which such Special Court of Judicial Magistrate has been established.
(2) The presiding officers of such Courts shall be appointed by the High Courts.
(3) The High Court may, whenever it appears to it to be expedient or necessary, confer the powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or of the second class on any member of the Judicial Service of the State, functioning as a Judge in a Civil Court.
12. Chief Judicial Magistrate and Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, etc-
(1) In every district (not being metropolitan area), the High Court shall appoint a Judicial Magistrate of the first class to be the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
(2) The High Court may appoint any Judicial Magistrate of the first class to be. an Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, and such Magistrate shall have all or any of the powers of a Chief Judicial Magistrate under this Code or under any other law for the time being in force as the High Court may direct.
(3)(a) The High Court may designate any Judicial Magistrate of the first class in any subdivision as the sub-divisional Judicial Magistrate and relieve him of the responsibilities specified in this section as occasion requires.
(b) Subject to the general control of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, every sub-divisional Judicial Magistrate shall also have and exercise, such powers of supervision and control over the work of the Judicial Magistrate (other than Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates) in the sub-division as the High Court may, by general or special order, specify in this behalf.
14. Local jurisdiction of Judicial Magistrates.-
(1) Subject to the control of the High Court, the Chief Judicial Magistrate may, from time to time, define the local limits of the area within which the Magistrates appointed under Section I 1 or under Section 13 may exercise all or any of the powers with which they may respectively be invested under this Code:
Provided that the Court of a Special Judicial Magistrate may hold its sitting at any place within the local area for which it is established.
(2) Except as otherwise provided by such definition, the jurisdiction and power of every such Magistrate shall extend throughout the district.
(3) Where the local jurisdiction of a Magistrate', appointed under Section 11 or Section 13 or Section 18, extends to an area beyond the district, or the metropolitan area, as the case may be, in which he ordinarily holds Courts, any reference in this Code to the Court of Session, Chief Judicial Magistrate or the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate shall, in relation to such Magistrate, throughout the area within his local jurisdiction, be construed, unless the context otherwise requires, as a reference to the Court of Session, Chief Judicial Magistrate, or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, as the case may be, exercising jurisdiction in relation to the said district or metropolitan area.
A perusal of Section 6 re-produced above would show the classes of Criminal Courts which may be constituted besides the High Courts. Section 11 deals with jurisdiction of Judicial Magistrates. In every district, there has to be established as many Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the first class and of the second class and at such places, as the State Government may, after consultation with the High Court, specify. Section 12 deals with Chief Judicial Magistrate and Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate. In every district the High Court has to appoint a Judicial Magistrate of the first class to be the Chief Judicial Magistrate. Section 14, which has a great deal of bearing, deals with local jurisdiction of Judicial Magistrates. A perusal of Sub-section (2) of Section 14 reproduced above would clearly manifest that the jurisdiction and powers of every Magistrate shall extend throughout the district except as otherwise provided.;