Islamabad - Due to absence of some strict laws, cheque fraud, mainly comprising bounced and dishonoured cheques, is emerging as the fastest growing financial crime in the federal capital with the city police stations registering around 100 such cases every month, reveals the data.

Federal capital police registered 96 such cases in April this year and the statistics reveal that in most of the cases, the litigation revolves around sale and purchase of property. Kohsar police station – a hub of commercial activities - remained atop with registering 21 such cases in April followed by Shalimar and Margalla police which registered 14 such cases each in the month. Similarly Sabzi Mandi police registered 1, Bani Gala 1, Shams Colony 1, Noon 1, Women 1, Secretariat 1, Golra 1, Lohi Bher 1, Koral 8, Bhara Kahu 3, Industrial Area 9, Tarnol 3, Aabpara 5, Karachi Company 3 and Ramana police station registered six cases.

The law and prosecution experts believe that the toothless prevailing laws encourage the individuals to commit cheque fraud. On the other side, the increasing crime puts an extra work load on the already overburdened police of the city. The experts were of the view that the criminals did not bother about the consequences of the fraud due to the less punishment for the crime.

A person who knowingly issues a cheque that it would be dishonoured is penalised under section 489-F of the PPC. The sections reads: “Whoever dishonestly issues a cheque towards repayment of a loan or fulfilment of an obligation which is dishonoured on presentation, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine, or with both, unless he can establish, for which the burden of proof shall rest on him, that he had made arrangements with his bank to ensure that the cheque would be honoured and that the bank was at fault in not honouring the cheque.”

A police officer dealing with the prosecution of such cases told The Nation on condition of anonymity that Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court had, in 2014, directed the law and justice division to categorise the cheque-related crime and link the punishment with amount so that the practice of issuing cheque dishonestly could be curtailed. He was not aware what happened to the IHC directions at the law and justice division but lamented that nothing concrete came from the law division despite passage of a long time. He termed 3 years imprisonment in case of cheque fraud of any amount as injustice, adding it encourages the criminals to serve in prison happily against a handsome amount. “What is the logic that two individuals committing cheque fraud of thousands and millions of rupees respectively would be put in prison for a maximum of three years period irrespective of the amount involved,” he added. He said that the punishment is just for the crime (cheque fraud) and the legitimate payee would have to file separate suit for recovery of the amount which is another lengthy process. The police officer was of the view that in case of big amount, the source of income of the account-holder should also be inquired about.

Detailing the complications involving the prosecution, the officer said the accused easily secure bails from the high courts and do not appear in the courts.

He recommended that ‘company cheque’ and ‘guarantee cheque’ should also be defined separately as in case of guarantee cheque, liability shifts from one individual to the guarantor. Similarly, company cheque must be defined as the office-holders change from time to time.

Chaudhary Sajid Hussain Advocate commenting on the increasing crime said in most of the cases, property dealers are involved in the crime. “Crime can be curbed if punishment is linked with the amount. If proven guilty, the accused will serve 25 months only in real terms in case he is handed over maximum three years punishment which is not a bad deal against a big amount,” he added.

There are four main types of cheque fraud: counterfeit, forged, altered and dishonestly issuing a cheque. Counterfeit is the fraud committed when cheques are not written or authorised by legitimate account holder. Forged is the fraud when the stolen cheque is not signed by account holder.

Altered is an item that has been properly issued by the account holder but has been intercepted and the payee and/or the amount of the item has/have been altered. Dishonestly issuing the cheque remains the major crime in the city.