Section 138 in The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881:
138. Dishonour of cheque for insufficiency, etc., of funds in the account. Where any cheque drawn by a person on an account maintained by him with a banker for payment of any amount of money to another person from out of that account for the discharge, in whole or in part, of any debt or other liability, is returned by the bank unpaid. either because of the amount of money standing to the credit of that account is insufficient to honour the cheque or that it exceeds the amount arranged to be paid from that account by an agreement made with that bank, such person shall be deemed to have committed an offence and shall, without prejudice. to any other provision of this Act, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to twice the amount of the cheque, or with both.
But there is some update on the same rule as per the Honorable Supreme court Judgement.
SC sets aside verdict of Gujarat HC that criminal proceedings for dishonouring of cheque can be initiated only when the cheque is dishonoured due to lack of sufficient amount
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, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Mishra 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.
“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 of Negotiable Instrument Act, 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,” the bench said.
The SC, however, said that in such cases, the account holder must be given a chance to arrange the payment before criminal proceedings begin. “Dishonour on account of such changes that may occur in the course of ordinary business of a company, partnership or an individual may not constitute an offence by itself because such a dishonour in order to qualify for prosecution under Section 138 shall have to be preceded by a statutory notice where the drawer is called and has the opportunity to arrange the payment of the amount covered by the cheque.”