Signature mismatch can attract criminal proceedings: Supreme Court
A bench of justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Misra, while hearing Criminal Appeal No’s 1910-1949 of 2012 arising out of Arising out S.L.P. (Crl.) Nos.1780-1819 of 2011) set aside the verdict of Gujarat High Court which had held that, criminal proceedings for dishonouring of cheque can be initiated only, when the cheque is dishonoured because of lack of sufficient amount in the bank account and not in case where a cheque is returned due to mismatch of signature of account holder. Under this judgment Supreme Court opined that, a person may face criminal proceedings if a cheque issued by him gets dishonoured on the ground that his signature does not match the specimen signature available with the bank.
Court observed that, the expression “amount of money ……. is insufficient” appearing in Section 138 of the Act is a genus and dishonour for reasons such “as account closed”, “payment stopped”, “referred to the drawer” are only species of that genus. Just as dishonour of a cheque, on the ground that the account has been closed is a dishonour falling in the first contingency referred to in Section 138, so also dishonour on the ground that the “signatures do not match” or that the “image is not found”, which too implies that the specimen signatures do not match the signatures on the cheque would constitute a dishonour within the meaning of Section 138 of the Act.
Court further observed that, situations and contingencies arising out of deliberate acts of omission or commission on the part of the drawers of the cheques, which would inevitably result in the dishonour of the cheque issued by them.