Cheque Bounced??? - Be ready to cough up as high as Rs 4.55 CRORE!!!

That’s what the guilty in a cheque-bounce case were ordered to pay. Of this, 5 per cent (Rs 22.5 lakh) had to be paid to the complainant in the courtroom itself

Do a double-check before you issue a cheque, else it may turn out to be a very, very costly mistake. On Tuesday, the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, 7th court Dadar, saw what could probably be the highest compensation ever awarded to a complainant in a cheque-bouncing case.

---Picture: Mashooq Safi holds up photos of Dilip Mehta (left) one of the two who gave him the dud cheques, and (right) Mehta’s son Siddarth, a defence witness---

Magistrate P T Rahule directed two persons found guilty in the case to pay up Rs 4.55 crore as compensation for three dishonoured cheques (worth Rs 2.26 crore) to Mashooq Safi, the complainant. Out of this, Rs 22.5 lakh — or 5 per cent of the amount — had to be paid right then and there in court.

Dilip Mehta, 62, and Tarun Mehta, 65, proprietors of Allied Enterprises, who were also sentenced to simple imprisonment for six months and four months respectively, gave Rs 22 lakh along with bail surety of Rs 65,000 each in cash. Lawyers believe it could be the largest cash transaction seen in a court in Mumbai.

The case
In 2004, Mashooq Safi, director of Kohetoor Stone and Tiles Pvt Ltd, had filed a complaint in the Dadar court after three cheques worth Rs 2.26 crore given to him by Allied Enterprises bounced. Brothers Dilip and Tarun Mehta, the proprietors of the partnership firm Allied Enterprises situated at Old Customs House, Ballard Pier, used to purchase sanitary fittings, tiles and other materials from Safi. As payment, they gave Safi three post-dated cheques together worth Rs 2.26 crore, with the promise that they would be honoured on presentation. However, when the cheques became valid, the Mehtas requested Safi not to present them for some more time.

“I thought they had a problem, and delayed presenting the cheques,” said Safi. “But when I learnt they were making false allegations against me at various police stations, I presented the cheques at my bank. Imagine my shock when two of the cheques were dishonoured with the stamp ‘account closed’ and the third one for insufficient funds.”

The trial
During the trial, defence lawyer Aabad Ponda alleged Safi had forcibly taken three cheques, one of which was a blank cheque, from the Mehtas at gunpoint in August 2004, along with one Babloo, Salim and others. He claimed the cheques were never issued against any liabilities, but failed to convince the court about this. The magistrate’s observation on this was quick: “If the complainant obtained one blank cheque, why did he take two other cheques?” The defence examined four witnesses including chartered accountant Dhirendra Premji Sangoi and Siddarth, son of Dilip Mehta. “Even as the trial was on, the Mehtas went on lodging false complaints against me at the VP Road police station, Crime Branch and Economic Offences Wing. Each time, I was let off by the cops after I showed them all the documents,” said Safi. “But when I lodged an FIR against Siddarth and Vinay, son of Tarun Mehta, at Bhoiwada Police station for extortion and issuing threats through the underworld, they were arrested and later released on bail,” added Safi.

The judgement
While delivering the judgement, magistrate Rahule observed, “Considering the ages of accused no 2 and 3 (Dilip and Tarun Mehta), so far as the sentence of imprisonment is concerned, they certainly deserve a lenient view; but they deserve maximum reasonable compensation to be saddled on them.” The Mehtas had earlier told the court they were worth around Rs 10 crore, and submitted details of their property in the city. Rahule ordered the Mehta brothers to pay up the entire Rs 4.55 crore compensation amount to Safi within 45 days.

Source: Mumbai Mirror, April 20

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