The basic provisions of law involved in this reference are proviso (c) to Section 138 and Section 142(b) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (“the NI Act”). Facts of Saketh need to be stated to understand how the above question of law arose. We must also quote Section 12(1) and (2) of the Limitation Act, 1963 and Section 9 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, on which reliance is placed in Saketh. 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 be extended to two years, or with fine which may extend to twice the amount of the cheque, or with both: (b) the payee or the holder in due course of the Cheque, as the case may be, makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving a notice in writing, to the drawer of the cheque, within thirty days of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid; and (c) the drawer of such cheque fails to make the payment of the said amount of money to the payee or, as the case may be, to the holder in due course of the cheque, within fifteen days of the receipt of the said notice.” [Provided that the cognizance of a complaint may be taken by the Court after the prescribed period, if the complainant satisfies the Court that he had sufficient cause for not making a complaint within such period.] (2) In computing the period of limitation for an appeal or an application for leave to appeal or for revision or for review of a judgment, the day on which the judgment complained of was pronounced and the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the decree, sentence or order appealed from or sought to be revised or reviewed shall be excluded.” (1) In any [Central Act] or Regulation made after the commencement of this Act, it shall be sufficient, for the purpose of excluding the first in a series of days or any other period of time, to use the word “from”, and, for the purpose of including the last in a series of days or any other period of time, to use the word “to”. In Saketh cheques dated 15/3/1995 and 16/3/1995 issued by the accused therein bounced when presented for encashment. As per proviso (c) to Section 138 of the NI Act, the accused were required to make the payment of the said amount within 15 days of the receipt of the notice i.e. According to the complainant for calculating one month’s period contemplated under Section 142(b), the date ‘15/10/1995’ has to be excluded.
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Counsel submitted that in the circumstances this Court should hold that Saketh lays down correct proposition of law. Shri Sunil Gupta, learned senior counsel for the respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the provisions of the N. Act provide for a criminal offence and punishment and, therefore, must be strictly construed. Section 12(1) of the Limitation Act cannot be resorted to so as to extend that period even by one day. Counsel submitted that the word ‘within’ has been held by this Court to mean ‘on or before’.
Counsel submitted that it is well settled that when two different words are used in the same provision or statute, they convey different meaning. Arthur Paul Benthall AIR 1956 SC 35, The Labour Commissioner, Madhya Pradesh v. If the starting point is excluded, that will render the word ‘within’ of Section 142(b) of the N.  Therefore, the complaint under Section 142(b) should be filed on or before or within, 30 days of the date on which the cause of action under Section 138(c) arises.
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