Supreme Court on Section 20 Negotiable Instruments Act

It is a settled proposition of law that the person who had handed over a blank cheque to another person, gives an authority to fill up the contents therein, as settled in the case titled as Mojj Engineering Systems Limited & Ors. vs. A.B. Sugars Ltd.; 154 (2008) Delhi Law Times 579, wherein Delhi High Court observed:

“7. Even otherwise, prima facie, it was the petitioners who had handed over the undated cheque for a certain amount to the respondent in terms of a contract between the parties. Since an undated cheque cannot be encashed, it can only mean that the petitioners had authorized the complainant to enter an appropriate date on it.

In Young Vs. Grote (1827) 4 Bing. 253 it was held that when a blank cheque is signed and handed over, it means the person signing it has given an implied authority to any subsequent holder to fill it up.

Similarly, in Scholfield Vs. Lord Londesborough (1895-1899) All ER Rep 282 it was held that whoever signs a cheque or accepts a bill in blank, and then puts it into circulation, must necessarily intend that either the person to whom he gives it, or some future holder, shall fill up the blank which he has left.

This common law doctrine was also affirmed by Justice Macnaghten in Griffiths Vs. Dalton [1940] 2 KB 264 where it was held that the drawer of an undated cheque gives a prima facie authority to fill in the date. This aspect has also been incorporated in Section 20 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, which deals with Inchoate Stamped Instruments.

The Supreme Court in T.Nagappa Vs. Y.R.Murlidhar, (2008) 5 SCC 633 while discussing the scope of Section 20 held that by reason of this provision, a right has been created in the holder of the cheque. Prima facie, the holder thereof is authorized to complete the incomplete negotiable instrument. In that view of the matter, all further issues that may be raised by the petitioners regarding the nature and scope of the authority of the respondent to put any particular date on the cheque in question, are all matters for trial.”

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