(1.) A criminal complaint was filed by respondent no. 2 Sundermani against accused-revisionist Rishi Ram Nautiyal enumerating the facts contained therein that the complainant was having a house in village Pilkhi, for which an agreement was entered into between the complainant and the accused for the sale of house for Rs. 2,50,000/-. The sale consideration was to be paid in two installments of Rs. 50,000/- each and the last installment was to be paid by April, 2005. The accused agreed to pay Rs. 3000/- per month as rent till the consideration was paid. Possession of the house was given to him. He was also granted liberty to demolish the house and reconstruct the same. In consideration of the price of the house, accused gave a cheque of Rs. 50,000/- on 10th March, 2005. The said cheque was presented for payment in the bank, but the payment was not released, hence respondent no. 2 filed a complaint under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') against the accused. The learned Magistrate took cognizance of the matter. Accused was summoned and tried. After considering the evidence on record, learned Magistrate held the accused guilty of the offence under Section 138 of the Act and awarded a fine of Rs. 50,000/-, in default of payment of which, he was required to undergo simple imprisonment for six months. Out of the amount of fine, Rs. 40,000/- were directed to be paid to the complainant by way of compensation.
(2.) Aggrieved against the said order dated 18.04.2007, criminal appeal was preferred. The same was dismissed in so far as the conviction of the accused was concerned. The sentencing part of the order dated 18.04.2007 was allowed.
The order imposing fine of Rs. 80,000/- was set aside. The reason assigned to the setting aside of the sentence part of the impugned judgment and order, was that the learned Magistrate has exceeded his pecuniary jurisdiction in terms of Section 29 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
It was directed by the learned Sessions Judge/appellate court, vide order dated 16th January, 2007, that the parties be heard on the point of sentence a fresh and then the learned Magistrate should proceed as per the provision of law, in the light of observations made in the body of the judgment. Aggrieved against the said order dated 16th June, 2007, present criminal revision was preferred on the grounds, inter alia that essential ingredients of Section 138 of the Act were not made out. It was not disclosed in the complaint whether the complaint was made within one month of the day on which the cause of action arose.
Whether cheque was given in the discharge of any debt or other liability which was legally enforceable debt. The cheque was given in lieu of an agreement for sale made on a plain paper which was an unregistered document. The agreement was done in respect of a house and land which, in fact, did not belong to the complainant. The liability, if any, arising out of such instrument was not legally enforceable. It was also submitted that the trial court committed manifest error of law in sentencing the revisionist beyond it's jurisdiction. The only course available to the trial court was to proceed under Section 325 Cr.P.C., in as much as, the trial court could not have passed sentence, which was passed by him on 18.04.2007.
(3.) It was mentioned by learned trial court in paragraph 6 of the judgment that a cheque of Rs. 50,000/- was given by the accused to the complainant, which cheque was dishonored. Intimation to this effect was given by the complainant to the accused on 22.04.2005. The notice was served upon the accused. Paper no. 6 Ka on the file of the trial court indicated that the notice was received by the accused on 25.04.2005. There were signatures of the accused on the receipt of notice. Thus it could not be said that no notice was received by the accused. It was admitted by the accused in statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. that a cheque was given by him to the complaint. The grievance of the accused was that the land in respect of which the agreement took place did not belong to the complainant.
We are not supposed to enter into this aspect of the matter as to who was owner of the land, in respect of which, the accused gave a cheque to the complainant. Rs. 50,000/- were given by the accused to the complainant by way of advance. This fact is under not dispute that the cheque was dishonored. The pleas which were taken by the accused before the trial court, were also taken up before the appellate court. The jurisdiction of the trial court was assailed before the learned appellate court, which argument was negatived by the learned Sessions Judge. Learned appellate court held that the Judicial Magistrate could not have passed such sentence as was passed by him. If learned Magistrate was of the view that more severe punishment was desirable to be awarded to the accused, he should have referred the matter to learned Chief Judicial Magistrate under Section 325 Cr.P.C. A ruling of Pankajbhai Nagibhai vs. State of Gujarat, 2001 AIR(SC) 567 was mentioned, in which the Hon'ble Apex Court held that non-obstante clause contained in Section 142 of the Act, does not expand the powers of Magistrate, so far as the imposition of fine was concerned. A jurisdictional error was committed by the learned Magistrate. Para 8 of the Pankajbhai's case is reported herein below for ready reference:
"Thus, the non-obtante limb provided in Section 142 of the N.I. Act is not intended to expand the powers of a Magistrate of first class beyond what is fixed in Chapter III of the Code. Section 29, which falls within Chapter III of the Code, contains a limit for a Magistrate of first class in the matter of imposing a sentence as noticed above i.e. if the sentence is imprisonment it shall not exceed 3 years and if the sentence is fine (even if it is part of the sentence) it shall not exceed Rs. 5000/-.";