In a recent ruling, the Kerala High Court affirmed the applicability of the presumption under Section 139 of the Negotiable Instrument Act (NI Act) even in cases involving voluntarily issued blank cheques [PK Uthuppu v NJ Varghese & Anr.]. Justice Sophy Thomas cited the Supreme Court's precedent in Bir Singh v. Mukesh Kumar, asserting, "Even if a blank cheque leaf is voluntarily signed and handed over by the accused, it would attract the presumption under Section 139 of the NI Act."
The High Court addressed a revision petition filed by an individual convicted under Section 138 of the NI Act for bouncing a ₹4 lakh cheque due to insufficient funds. The petitioner claimed the cheque was issued as security for a vehicle loan, later misused by the complainant. However, the court found no evidence supporting the petitioner's claim of a vehicle loan.
Rejecting the defense, the court emphasized, "The revision petitioner failed to adduce any cogent evidence to show that the cheque given by him was not towards discharge of any legally enforceable debt." The court upheld the conviction, stating, "Since the presumption stands unrebutted, this Court has to hold that the appellate court rightly upheld the conviction."
Despite the petitioner's argument that the blank cheque was misused, the court maintained the presumption favoring the complainant, directing the petitioner to surrender for imprisonment and pay a fine of ₹4 lakh. The ruling underscores the significance of Section 139 in establishing the liability of cheque issuers, even when voluntarily providing blank cheques, emphasizing the need for evidence to rebut the presumption.
Author: Anushka Taraniya
News Writer, MIT ADT University