The Supreme Court has directed the High Courts of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan to respond within two weeks on the suggestion of setting special courts for expeditious disposal of cheque bounce cases.

A three-judge bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice B R Gavai, and Justice S Ravindra Bhat asked the five High Courts to file their response on the suggestion of having one court in one district with a retired judge as a pilot project.

Regarding the constitution of special courts, the states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, UP, and Rajasthan have been selected on the basis of the number of cases pending in those states which are higher than in other states.

The suggestion of amicus is that five districts from each of these states where cases are high can be selected and special courts are established. These HCs can respond to said suggestion in two weeks, the Bench said.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, who has been appointed as amicus curiae in the case, told the bench that there is 26 lakh pending cases and now it has increased by seven lakh in the last four to five months.

That is a disturbing number here. One defaulting area is Delhi and Gujarat has four lakh cases, Maharashtra has 5.6 lakhs. The Committee (formed by SC) has suggested certain steps and the Centre needs to respond to it....once the process is issued, we can have a national portal where one can identify such processes. Once a person knows that a cheque issued by him has bounced he can check for pending summons, Luthra said.

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju submitted that this (portal) should not allow the accused to misuse the system and delay the proceedings.

The matter is listed for the next hearing on May 12.

The Court had earlier directed Registrar Generals of all High Courts to file a status report regarding the compliance of directions issued by it to expedite the trial of cheque dishonour cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Earlier, the Apex Court had come out with a slew of directions to ensure speedy disposal of cheque bounce cases across the country and asked the Centre to amend laws to ensure clubbing of trials in such cases if they are lodged against a person within a year related to the same transaction.

The Court in March 2020 had taken cognizance of the humongous pendency of the cheque bounce cases and had come came out with the directions to ensure speedy disposal of such matters which were 35.16 lakh as of December 31, 2019, out of a total of 2.31 crore pending criminal cases in the country.

Earlier, the Court had termed the pendency of over 35 lakhs cheque bounce cases as grotesque and suggested to the Centre come up with a law to create additional courts for a particular period to deal with such cases.

On March 5, 2020, the top court registered a suo motu case and decided to evolve a "concerted" and "coordinated" mechanism for expeditious disposal of such cases.

With PTI inputs