Sanjeev Sinha | ECONOMICTIMES.COM | Jun 19, 2015, 12.06PM IST
Kumar, a businessman, always prided himself on being financially well organized. From maintaining a monthly financial budget to keeping accounts, he was sure that he was keeping a tight leash on his numbers, be it personal or business-related. Despite this, it came as a jolting shock to him to know that he had a poor CIBIL score. On further research, he learned that an unintended and inadvertent cheque bounce was the culprit
Cheque bounce, in fact, is one of the most common financial offences in India that can lead to disastrous consequences for the issuer. Here is a look at the various ways in which a bounced cheque can affect you:
Penalty by the bank: If your cheque happens to bounce due to insufficient funds or any other technical reason like signature mismatch, both the defaulter and the payee are charged by their respective banks. If the bounced cheque is against the repayment of any loan, you would have to additionally bear the late payment charges (which vary from Rs 200 to Rs 700) along with the penalty fee charges by the bank.
“The penalty charges for cheque outward return are close to Rs 300 for most banks, while charges for cheque inward return are about Rs 100. The exact penalty charges vary with banks and are different for different account types. Premium accounts usually have higher penalty charges,” says Adhil Shetty, founder & CEO of BankBazaar.com.
Negative Impact on your CIBIL score: A bounced cheque can dent your financial credit history. Even a single bounce can impact your CIBIL score irreparably to such an extent that you can possibly be denied a loan in the future. The best way to keep your CIBIL score healthy is to make sure your cheques are never dishonored and that there would be at least a few thousands more than the minimum balance for your account even after the cheque is encashed.
Filling of civil and criminal charges by the aggrieved party: If you are lucky, you can get away with only a small fine paid to the bank for a bounced cheque. On the other hand, if your stars are aligned against you, the aggrieved party that does not receive the promised funds can file a civil or criminal case against you as an issuer of the cheque.
“If the cheque dishonor is willful, the defaulter can be prosecuted under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 or Sec 417 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1960. Under Section 138, the aggrieved party may send you a legal notice first. If you are found guilty as a willful defaulter, you can be punished with a prison term of two years and/or a fine as high as twice the cheque amount,” informs Shetty.
Under Sec 417 and 420, a non-bailable immediate warrant can be issued. However, in both the cases, a case of cheating has to be proven. If more than 1 cheque is bounced, the payee can file separate suits against each dishonoured cheque, which can compound issues for the defaulter.
The payee, however, cannot straight away go the legal way. “He can re-present the returned cheque within 3 months from the date of the cheque, giving a second chance to the issuer. If it is returned the second time too, then he can go the legal way within 30 days of the receipt of Cheque Return Memo. On receipt of a legal notice or summons, the defaulter can settle the payment amicably out of the court at any time or proceed with a lawyer for hearing, at the court where the complaint has been registered,” says Shetty.
Other Risks: As per the RBI guidelines, banks can stop issuing cheque book facilities to any customer booked for repeated cheque bounce offence at least four times on cheques valued at over Rs 1 crore. If you have kept any collateral security with the bank for any loan and if repayment EMI cheque bounces, the banks are well within their right to issue a legal notice or deduct money from your account.
“Other than insufficient funds, cheque dishonors can happen in case of signature mismatch of the drawer on the cheque as per the bank’s records. Overwriting on cheques without authentication and issuance of cheques that have expired validity are also reasons for cheque bounce. However, legal support can be taken only if a clear case of cheating can be proven. Legal route cannot be adopted if the issued cheque is against a donation or gift,” observes the CEO of BankBazaar.com.
No need to say that always make sure that all the cheques issued by you are honored on time. If you happen to exhaust the money in your account before the cheque date, inform the payee about it through writing and issue stop payment / cancellation at your bank, or infuse sufficient funds into your account before the date of the cheque. Also, do not issue a non-account payee cheque or a cheque without crossing it in order to avoid the cases of forgery.