How to Handle Cheque Bounce Cases in India

How can one handle a cheque bounce case in India? A cheque bounce is not just a financial lapse but a serious criminal offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. This law imposes strict penalties, including imprisonment for up to two years and fines up to twice the cheque amount, reflecting the gravity of the crime. The consequences of a dishonoured cheque extend beyond financial loss, damaging the issuer’s credibility and trustworthiness.

Dealing with a cheque bounce case necessitates a structured legal approach. The process begins with issuing a cheque bounce notice within 30 days of receiving the bank’s return memo, demanding payment within 15 days. If the drawer fails to comply, the payee can initiate legal action under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. A legal notice for a cheque bounce is crucial, as it sets the foundation for subsequent criminal proceedings, emphasizing the need for financial responsibility and the severe repercussions of a cheque bounce.


Understanding Cheque Bounce

A cheque bounce occurs when a cheque presented for payment is returned by the bank unpaid, typically due to insufficient funds in the drawer’s account. According to Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, a cheque is considered bounced if it is dishonoured by the bank due to reasons such as insufficient funds, mismatch of signature or account closure.


Common Reasons for Cheque Bounce

Several common reasons can lead to a cheque bounce, each of which carries significant legal implications:

  • Insufficient Funds: The most prevalent reason for cheque bounce is when the drawer’s account does not have sufficient balance to honor the cheque.
  • Signature Mismatch: If the signature on the cheque does not match the bank’s records, the cheque will be dishonoured.
  • Incorrect Date: Cheques presented after their validity period, typically three months from the date of issuance, will bounce.
  • Overwriting: Any alteration or overwriting on the cheque can result in its dishonour.
  • Account Closure: If the account on which the cheque is drawn is closed, the cheque will be returned unpaid.
  • Stop Payment Instructions: If the drawer instructs the bank to stop the payment after issuing the cheque, it will bounce.


Legal Aspects of Cheque Bounce

Under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, issuing a cheque that bounces due to insufficient funds or any other reason listed above is a criminal offence. The law imposes stringent penalties to uphold financial integrity and accountability.


Issuing a Cheque Bounce Notice

When a cheque bounces, the payee must issue a cheque bounce notice to the drawer within 30 days of receiving the bank’s return memo. This legal notice for cheque bounce serves as a formal demand for payment. The drawer is given 15 days from the receipt of the notice to make the payment. If the drawer fails to comply, the payee can file a complaint in court.


Overview of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881

Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, addresses the criminal offence of cheque bounce. This section mandates that if a cheque is returned unpaid due to insufficient funds or if the amount exceeds the arrangement made with the bank, the drawer can be prosecuted. To initiate proceedings, the payee must send a cheque bounce notice within 30 days of receiving the bank’s return memo. The drawer has 15 days to make the payment; failure to do so allows the payee to file a complaint within 30 days.


New Rules Introduced by RBI Regarding Cheque Bounce

In August 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced new regulations to streamline cheque processing and reduce instances of cheque bounce. One significant change is that the National Automated Clearing House (NACH) now operates 24/7, including on Sundays, facilitating faster and more efficient cheque clearances.

These reforms apply to all public and private sector banks, aiming to enhance the reliability of cheque transactions. The RBI also implemented penalties for non-compliance, reinforcing the need for account holders to maintain adequate funds and adhere to banking norms.


Procedure for Legal Action

Issue a Cheque Bounce Notice

The first step in addressing a cheque bounce case is to issue a cheque bounce notice to the drawer of the cheque. This notice must be sent within 30 days of receiving the bank’s return memo indicating the dishonour of the cheque. The notice should demand payment of the cheque amount within 15 days from the date the drawer receives the notice.

Issuing this notice is a legal requirement under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. It serves as a formal demand for payment and provides a basis for further legal action if the drawer fails to comply.

Requirements: The notice must include details such as the cheque amount, the date of issuance, the reason for the dishonour, and a clear demand for payment within the specified period.


File a Complaint in Court

If the drawer fails to make the payment within 15 days of receiving the cheque bounce notice, the payee has the right to file a criminal complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. This complaint must be filed within 30 days from the expiry of the 15-day notice period.

Filing a complaint in a timely manner ensures that the legal process is initiated, which is crucial for the payee to seek justice and compensation.

Requirements: The complaint should be filed in the court that has jurisdiction over the area where the cheque was dishonoured. The complaint must include:

  • The original bounced cheque.
  • The bank’s return memo.
  • A copy of the cheque bounce notice.
  • Proof of delivery of the notice.
  • Any other relevant documents supporting the case.

Attend Court Hearings

Once the complaint is filed, the court will issue a summons to the drawer of the cheque, requiring them to appear in court. Both the payee and the drawer will need to attend court hearings where they can present their evidence and arguments.

The payee must present a strong case to prove that the cheque was dishonoured due to insufficient funds or other valid reasons. The drawer has the opportunity to defend themselves and present any counterarguments.

Requirements: Both parties should prepare their evidence meticulously. The payee should present:

  • The cheque bounce notice and proof of its delivery.
  • The original cheque and the bank’s return memo.
  • Any correspondence or documents that support their claim.

Court Judgment

After the presentation of evidence and witness testimonies, the court will deliberate and issue a judgment. The court will decide whether the cheque bounce constitutes an offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 based on the merits of the case.

The court’s judgment determines the legal and financial consequences for the drawer. If found guilty, the drawer may face imprisonment, fines, or both. 

Requirements: The court will consider:

  • The evidence presented by both parties.
  • The credibility of witnesses.
  • Compliance with the procedural requirements under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Filing an Appeal

If either party is dissatisfied with the court’s judgment, they have the right to file an appeal in a higher court. The appeal must be filed within the prescribed time frame, typically 30 days from the date of the judgment.


  • The appellant must file a notice of appeal within the stipulated period.
  • The appeal must be based on valid grounds such as legal errors, procedural mistakes, or the emergence of new evidence.
  • The appellant must provide a copy of the lower court’s judgment, along with a detailed explanation of the grounds for the appeal.



Addressing cheque bounce cases in India requires a legal approach to the implications under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The process starts with issuing a timely cheque bounce notice and, if necessary, filing a complaint in court. Understanding common reasons for cheque bounce, such as insufficient funds or signature mismatches, is essential for both issuers and payees to prevent such occurrences. Successful handling of a cheque bounce case involves meticulous preparation and adherence to legal requirements.


Seek Legal Guidance for Cheque Bounce Cases with A Agarwalla & Co.

If you find yourself dealing with a cheque bounce case, it is crucial to seek professional legal advice to navigate the complexities of the process effectively. Consulting with legal professional can provide invaluable guidance on presenting a strong case in court. With A Agarwalla & Co.’s expertise, you can ensure compliance with all legal requirements and enhance your chances of a favorable outcome.




1. How can we defend yourself in a cheque bounce case?

In defending a cheque bounce case, our approach would involve meticulously gathering evidence to disapprove allegations made against our client. This evidence would include documentation proving the authenticity of the cheque issuance and establishing the legitimacy of the underlying transaction. Additionally, we would scrutinize the procedural aspects of the case, looking for any errors or discrepancies in the notice or complaint served by the opposing party.


2. What are the new rules for cheque bounce cases?

The new rules for cheque bounce cases, introduced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), require customers relying on cheques to maintain a minimum bank balance to prevent bounced cheques. Customers failing to meet this requirement risk cheques bouncing and may face financial penalties. Additionally, the RBI extended the operational hours of the National Automated Clearing House (NACH) to operate 24/7, aiming to expedite the cheque-clearing process.


3. What is Defence evidence in a cheque bounce case?

Defence evidence refers to any information or documents that demonstrate the defendant’s innocence. This evidence could include bank statements showing sufficient funds when the cheque was presented, proof of stop payment instructions issued prior to cheque presentation, proof of any technical errors encountered during the transaction or evidence indicating mistaken identity regarding the cheque owner.


4. What is the legal action against a bounced Cheque?

The legal action against a bounced cheque typically involves issuing a legal notice to the drawer demanding payment within a specified period. If the drawer fails to comply, the payee can file a complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, which may result in criminal prosecution, including imprisonment or a monetary penalty, or both.


5. How can A Agarwalla & Co. assist in a cheque bounce case?

A Agarwalla & Co. can provide comprehensive legal assistance in cheque bounce cases by offering expert advice on issuing legal notices to the drawer, preparing and filing complaints under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and representing clients in court proceedings. Our team can strategize defence arguments, gather relevant evidence and navigate the legal complexities to achieve favorable outcomes for our clients.


6. How does A Agarwalla & Co. ensure successful outcomes in cheque bounce cases?

A Agarwalla & Co.’s specialization in cheque bounce cases is coupled with a strategic approach aimed at achieving successful outcomes for clients. We meticulously analyze the details of each case, identifying key legal arguments and evidence to strengthen our client’s position. We also ensure adherence to statutory requirements and timelines, minimizing the risk of procedural errors.

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