The judgment in the case of P Sreenivasan v/s Babu Raj; CRL.M.C.NO.1077 OF 2024 & Connected Matter heard in the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam, involved mattera concerning the interpretation of Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (“NI Act”). This provision pertains to the power vested in the Appellate Court to order payment pending an appeal against conviction under Section 138 of the NI Act.
The issue at hand revolved around the power of the Appellate Court to order payment pending an appeal against conviction under Section 138 of the NI Act. Specifically, the Hon’ble High Court was called upon to clarify the nature and extent of statutory discretion conferred on the Appellate Court in ordering payments pending appeal against conviction, as well as the requirement of providing reasons for such orders.
Thus, the Hon’ble Court after analysing Section 148 of the NI Act and, in the backdrop of the decisions of the Supreme Court in Surinder Singh Deswal v/s Virender Gandhi and Jamboo Bhandari v/s M.P.State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd laid down the following points: –
(a) Under Section 148 of the NI Act, the Appellate Court has a discretion to either order the appellant to deposit a portion of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial court or to waive such deposit. In either event, since it would be exercising a statutory discretion, the Appellate Court would be legally obliged to furnish reasons for its decision so as to unambiguously indicate that its discretion was exercised keeping in mind the object of the statutory provision.
(b) If the Appellate Court, pursuant to the exercise of its discretion, finds that the appellant is required to deposit a portion of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial court pending disposal of the appeal, then the amount directed to be deposited cannot be less than an amount equivalent to 20% of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial court.
(c) If the Appellate Court chooses to direct the appellant to deposit any sum which is more than 20% of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial court, then it would be obliged to give further reasons for directing the deposit of such amounts as are in excess of the minimum of 20% of the fine or compensation awarded by the trial court.
Ultimately, the Hon’ble High Court held that that the orders of the Sessions Court in this case and the other connected matter, under consideration did not contain sufficient reasons to support the findings therein. As a result, the Court deemed it appropriate to set aside the impugned orders and directed the Sessions court to pass fresh orders in the petitions under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code.


Author of this article:

Adv. Ravish Bhatt,
Partner, R&D Law Chambers,
Dual Qualified Lawyer Solicitor | International Tax Affiliate

Connect with Mr. Bhatt on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adit-ravishbhatt/

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