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 provisions of this Act, be punished with imprisonment for 19 [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:

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Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply unless—

  1. the cheque has been presented to the bank within a period of six months from the date on which it is drawn or within the period of its validity, whichever is earlier;
  2. 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, 20 [within thirty days] of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid; and
  3. 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.

The offense under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is a bailable one since the same is punishable with imprisonment for a maximum period of two years.
A complaint is to be filed in the court which would have jurisdiction over the dispute within the prescribed time limit of 30 days (from the date of receipt of the demand notice by the drawer). It is pertinent to understand which court the drawee should approach in a cheque bounce case.

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