Rakesh Ranjan Shrivastava vs State Of Jharkhand 2024 INSC 205 :: [2024] 3 S.C.R. 438 – S 143A NI Act – Interim Compensation

Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881; Section 143A – Grant of interim compensation – Considering the drastic consequences of exercising the power under Section 143A and that also before the finding of the guilt is recorded in the trial, the word “may” used in the provision cannot be construed as “shall”. The provision will have to be held as a directory and not mandatory- While deciding the prayer made under Section 143A, the Court must record brief reasons indicating consideration of all relevant factors – The broad parameters for exercising the discretion under Section 143A are as follows: i. The Court will have to prima facie evaluate the merits of the case made out by the complainant and the merits of the defence pleaded by the accused in the reply to the application. The financial distress of the accused can also be a consideration. ii. A direction to pay interim compensation can be issued, only if the complainant makes out a prima facie case. iii. If the defence of the accused is found to be prima facie plausible, the Court may exercise discretion in refusing to grant interim compensation. iv. If the Court concludes that a case is made out to grant interim compensation, it will also have to apply its mind to the quantum of interim compensation to be granted. While doing so, the Court will have to consider several factors such as the nature of the transaction, the relationship, if any, between the accused and the complainant, etc. v. There could be several other relevant factors in the peculiar facts of a given case, which cannot be exhaustively stated. The parameters stated above are not exhaustive. (Para 19)

Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881; Section 148– The word “may” used therein will have to be generally construed as “rule” or “shall””- when the Appellate Court decides not to direct the deposit by the accused, it must record the reasons – Referred to Surinder Singh Deswal v. Virender Gandhi (2019) 11 SCC 341 (Para 15) – Sub-section (1) of Section 148 confers on the Appellate Court a power to direct the appellant/accused to deposit 20 per cent of the compensation amount. It operates at a different level as the power thereunder can be exercised only after the appellant/accused is convicted after a full trial. (Para 13)

Interpretation of Statutes- There is no doubt that the word “may” ordinarily does not mean “must”. Ordinarily, “may” will not be construed as “shall”. But this is not an inflexible rule. The use of the word “may” in certain legislations can be construed as “shall”, and the word “shall” can be construed as “may”. It all depends on the nature of the power conferred by the relevant provision of the statute and the effect of the exercise of the power. The legislative intent also plays a role in the interpretation of such provisions. Even the context in which the word “may” has been used is also relevant. (Para 9)

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