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2022 (8) TMI 55 - Indian Laws
Dishonor of Cheque - vicarious liability - rebuttal of presumption - non-Executive Independent Directors - In the High Court, it was contended that the Judicial Magistrate, 2nd Court, Suri, dealt with the application under Section 205 of the Cr.P.C. without considering whether any useful purpose would be served by requiring the personal attendance of the Accused or whether the progress of the trial was likely to be hampered on account of their absence - HELD THAT:- While it is true that inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 should be exercised sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests specially laid down in the Section, the Court is duty bound to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. when the exercise of such power is justified by the tests laid down in the said Section. Jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. must be exercised if the interest of justice so requires.
The High Court rightly held that when a complaint was filed against the Director of a company, a specific averment that such person was in charge of and responsible for the conduct of business of the company was an essential requirement of Section 141 of the NI Act. The High Court also rightly held that merely being a Director of the company is not sufficient to make the person liable under Section 141 of the NI Act. The requirement of Section 141 of the NI Act was that the person sought to be made liable should be in charge of and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company. This has to be averred as a fact - The High Court also rightly held that the Managing Director or Joint Managing Director would admittedly be in charge of the company and responsible to the company for the conduct of its business by virtue of the office they hold as Managing Director or Joint Manging Director. These persons are in charge of and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company and they get covered under Section 141 of the NI Act. A signatory of a cheque is clearly liable under Section 138/141 of the NI Act.
There can be no doubt that in deciding a Criminal Revisional Application under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. for quashing a proceeding under Section 138/141 of the NI Act, the laudable object of preventing bouncing of cheques and sustaining the credibility of commercial transactions resulting in enactment of the said Sections has to be borne in mind. The provisions of Section 138/141 of the NI Act create a statutory presumption of dishonesty on the part of the signatory of the cheque, and when the cheque is issued on behalf of a company, also those persons in charge of or responsible for the company or the business of the company. Every person connected with the company does not fall within the ambit of Section 141 of the NI Act - the High Court correctly observed that three categories of persons were covered by Section 141 of the NI Act – the company who committed the offence as alleged; everyone who was in-charge of or was responsible for the business of the company and any other person who was a Director or a Manager or a Secretary or Officer of the Company with whose connivance or due to whose neglect the company had committed the offence.
A Director of a company who was not in charge or responsible for the conduct of the business of the company at the relevant time, will not be liable under those provisions. - What the High Court overlooked was, the contention of these Appellants that they were non-Executive Independent Directors of the Accused Company, based on unimpeachable materials on record. The High Court observed that in the petition it had specifically been averred that all the accused persons were responsible and liable for the whole business management of the Accused Company, and took the view that the averments in the complaint were sufficient to meet the requirements of Section 141 of the NI Act.
The judgment and order of the High Court is set aside - appeal allowed.