The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that depositing a part of compensation cannot be made a pre-condition for entertaining a convict’s appeal for hearing in a cheque bounce case.
The HC bench of Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill set aside the order of a Ludhiana court that had ordered that the appeal would be admitted provided 20 percent of the compensation amount was deposited.
The appeal in the district sessions court was filed by one Sudarshan Kumar after his conviction under the provisions of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, by a judicial magistrate.
The HC bench observed that even as the Negotiable Instruments Act could override provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), there is no such specific provision in it that could be interpreted saying that availing of right to appeal by a person convicted of an offence in cheque bounce case is subject to certain conditions.
“The right to appeal against conviction is an invaluable statutory right vested upon a convict under the CrPC, which cannot be allowed to be defeated by imposing any condition. While giving a wider connotation to Article 21 of Constitution, it can even be said that depriving a convict of his right to appeal by imposing any condition for availing his statutory right to challenge conviction in a higher court would amount to depriving his liberty,” Justice Gill observed.
The Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act only vests an appellate court with the power to direct the appellant to deposit an amount not less than 20 percent of the compensation amount but under no circumstances the same can be interpreted to be a pre-condition for availing the right of appeal, the bench added.
“Imposition of any condition at the time of suspending of sentence may be a different matter and the trial court may in its wisdom impose such a condition, failing which the order suspending sentence may be vacated,” the bench said, adding that a convict’s bail during the pendency of appeal may be cancelled upon failure of the appellant to comply with the direction of deposit of such amount.
The court also clarified that under the Negotiable Instruments Act the compensation amount sought to be deposited by the court is required to be deposited within 60 days which may further be extended by another 30 days.
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