More than six lakh cases of cheque fraud are pending. Trial remains stayed year after year by the High Court order
No investigation is carried out for trying cases filed on charge of cheque fraud. Again, the plaintiff is the lone witness to complete the trial. Even then, these cases are not settled year after year.
In addition to the delay for various reasons, the trial of many cases remains stayed upon the High Court orders. As a result, justice seekers have to suffer a lot.
According to the information provided by the Supreme Court, 6.17 lakh cheque fraud cases are awaiting disposal in courts across the country. Transaction of around Tk7,500 crore is involved in these cases.
Of the cases, the trial of more than 1.5 lakh cases have been stayed by HC orders. It is seen that the trial of these cases is pending year after year. These cases are not generally investigated in our country.
According to the statistics of the cases, as of July this year, about 1.23 lakh cheque fraud cases are pending in the Dhaka Metropolitan and District and Sessions Judge's Court.
Since there are various documents including cheques to prove these cases, in each case the trial is usually completed with the testimony of the plaintiff. People concerned said it takes a long time to complete the testimony process.
It took almost four years for a witness to testify in a case filed on behalf of an organisation named SAM Agro Chemicals. And such a small case has not been settled in six and a half years.
In January 2014, Ankush Kumar Saha, manager of SAM Agro Chemical, filed the case against Jagrat Kumar Karmakar, a businessman from Akandpara Bazar of Gabtali upazila in Bogura.
It was alleged in the case that the accused bought chemicals from the plaintiff's company on credit. The accused handed over a cheque of Tk7,45,300 to the plaintiff's company in July 2013 as payment.
The plaintiff deposited the cheque in the bank account of the company in the Rampura branch of Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd to withdraw the money.
In October 2013, the cheque bounced back from Janata Bank's Corporate Branch in Bogura. According to the bank, the defendant's bank account did not have enough money.
The plaintiff then sent a legal notice to the accused asking for the money. The plaintiff filed a case for non-payment even after that.
The case documents show that after the accused surrendered and secured bail, the case was transferred to the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court in 2014 for trial. The case is currently pending in the Second Joint Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court.
Charges were framed against the accused in August 2016, almost two years after it was transferred for trial. It took almost four years to record the testimony of the plaintiff.
According to the case documents, after the plaintiff testified in this case, the accused also testified. The case was then set for arguments. Since 2017, the case was set for arguments four times. Each time the defendant withdrew the case from the argument and sought permission to cross-examine the plaintiff again.
The defendant sought time for cross-examination after the court gave permission. Thus, four years have passed since the time was granted again and again. On February 12, the accused finished interrogating the plaintiff. The case is now awaiting verdict.
The plaintiff's lawyer said the delivery of the verdict was not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sanjeev Chandra Das said the date was set three times for the verdict. But in response to the pleas of the accused, every time the court withdrew the case from the verdict and gave the plaintiff an opportunity to cross-examine again. Due to this, the case is taking years to be settled.
Ankush Kumar Saha said, "I have been going to court for six and a half years over this case."
He has been coming to court to testify for four years after the charges were framed against the accused.
"I am suffering from extreme harassment. The case is not over yet. Again, who knows if the defendant appears with any application again," he said in resentment.
Garment trader Azmat Ali, is a resident of Savar. In 2014, his business partner Siddiqur Rahman fled after embezzling Tk10 lakh in business cash.
Later, under pressure from Azmat, Siddiqur agreed to return Tk8 lakh through arbitration. He even paid Tk8 lakh by cheque on November 12 that year.
But when Siddiqur deposited the cheque in the Savar branch of Dutch-Bangla Bank to withdraw the money, it was dishonored as there was not enough money in the account.
Later, in December 2014, Azmat Ali filed a case of fraud of Tk8 lakh against Siddiqur. The case came to the High Court after the lower court in the last six years.
Now the proceedings of the case have been stayed on the order of the High Court.
Like Azmat, another victim is businessman Sohrab Hossain, managing director of a textile mill. A man named Abdullah Al Hasan owed Sohrab Hossain Tk 5 crore in June 2014.
In November that year, Abdullah issued a cheque to clear the payment.
When the cheque was deposited in Dutch-Bangla Bank at Karwan Bazar branch, it was dishonored as there was not enough money in the account. Despite giving legal notice within the stipulated time, Abdullah did not pay.
Later, in December 2014, Sohrab filed a case for forgery of cheque worth Tk5 crore against Abdullah Al Hasan in Dhaka's 19th Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court.
But the trial of that case did not end even after six years.
Meanwhile, after reviewing the documents of a case pending in the First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court in Dhaka, it was seen that Premier Bank filed a case of cheque forgery against Mohammad Abu Saeed and Ekramul Haque, proprietors of SS General Trading Corporation.
The accused issued a cheque of Tk25 lakh to the creditor bank in January 2009. The cheque was dishonored.
Not only Azmat Ali and Sohrab Hossain, there are many such instances of cheque fraud happening all over the country.
Most of the defendants in the cheque dishonor cases are influential and wealthy people. As such cases are bailable, issuers of the fake cheques are going out on bail due to loopholes in the law, and by the High Court orders.
Former law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed told The Business Standard that as relevant documents are involved in such trials, verdicts are handed down after examining a witness.
"If it takes years to take the testimony of this lone witness, the backlog of cases will increase," he added.
He said most of the cases of cheque fraud are delayed in various ways.
Again, it has become a common thing to receive stay orders from the High Court to adjourn the trial of these cases, said the veteran lawyer.
"The High Court could be a little more careful in passing orders in these cases," he added.
The former law minister said that the Supreme Court should take initiative for speedy disposal of these cases.
"That's because most plaintiffs in cheque fraud cases are usually businessmen. As a result, if the cases are not disposed of quickly, they lose business," he added.
Again, many people are falsely involved in cheque fraud cases. As a result, both will benefit from a speedy trial.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Business Standard that the Appellate Division has instructions to expedite the disposal of cheque fraud cases.
In addition, the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain also gave several directives and observations so that all plaintiffs or defendants in these cases get fair trial.
He said the courts concerned should follow the directives of the Supreme Court properly.
"Many times these cases are delayed due to the lawyers involved. That matter must also be taken into account."