New Delhi: Courts cannot impose a fine of more than twice the amount in bounced cheques, the Supreme Court has held, stressing that the limit is inviolable and should be respected.
"First and foremost is the fact that the power to levy fine is circumscribed under the statute to twice the cheque amount.
"Even in a case where the court may be taking a lenient view in favour of the accused by not sending him to prison, it cannot impose a fine more than twice the cheque amount. That statutory limit is inviolable and must be respected," a bench of justices T S Thakur and Vikramajit Sen said.
It set aside the Calcutta High Court order which had directed a person to pay Rs 1,49,500 as against the cheque amount of Rs 69,500.
In this case a trial court had sentenced a person to six months imprisonment and directed him to pay compensation amounting to Rs 80,000 in a cheque bounce case.
The accused, Somnath Sarkar, then approached the High Court which directed him to pay an additional Rs 69,500 to the complainant and his jail term was waived.
Sarkar then moved a mercy plea before the Supreme Court saying that he was not capable of paying the amount.
The court after hearing his plea set aside the High Court order and reduced the amount of Rs 69,500 to Rs 20,000.
"The High Court has, in the case at hand, obviously overlooked the statutory limitation on its power to levy a fine," the bench said.