Dishonour of Negotiable Instruments, Notice of dishonour, Noting and Protesting

26/02/2024 1 By indiafreenotes

Dishonour of Negotiable instruments occurs when the party required to pay (the drawee, in the case of cheques, or the acceptor, in the case of bills of exchange) refuses to pay the instrument when it is presented for payment on the due date. Dishonour can lead to legal and financial consequences for the parties involved, particularly for the drawer and the endorsers, who may be held liable for the payment. Understanding the reasons for dishonour and the subsequent steps is crucial for managing these financial instruments.

Reasons for Dishonour

  1. Insufficient Funds:

The most common reason for the dishonour of cheques is insufficient funds in the drawer’s account to cover the amount.

  1. Account Closed:

Dishonour occurs if the drawer’s account has been closed before the cheque is presented for payment.

  1. Stop Payment Order:

The drawer may instruct the bank to stop payment on a cheque, leading to its dishonour when presented.

  1. Signature Mismatch:

If the signature on the cheque does not match the signature on record with the bank, the cheque may be dishonoured.

  1. Alterations:

Unauthorized alterations made on the negotiable instrument, unless verified by the drawer, can lead to dishonour.

  1. Technical Issues:

Errors such as incorrect date, missing signatures, or illegibility can also be grounds for dishonour.

Consequences of Dishonour

  1. Notice of Dishonour:

The holder of the instrument must notify the drawer and all endorsers about the dishonour promptly. This notice can be given verbally or in writing, and it serves to inform them that the payment has been refused and that they may be held liable.

  1. Liability of Parties:

Upon dishonour, the drawer and endorsers become liable to the holder for the amount of the instrument plus any applicable charges. The holder may initiate legal action to recover the amount.

  1. Stamping:

In some jurisdictions, the dishonoured instrument must be stamped as “dishonoured” by the bank, providing a formal record of the dishonour.

  1. Criminal Charges:

In certain cases, particularly with cheques, dishonour due to insufficient funds can lead to criminal charges against the drawer under specific legal provisions, such as Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act in India.

Remedies for Dishonour

  1. Negotiation:

The parties may negotiate a resolution, such as arranging for payment by other means or agreeing on a payment plan.

  1. Legal Action:

The holder may take legal action against the drawer and endorsers to recover the amount due, plus any legal fees and interest.

  1. Resubmission:

In some cases, particularly if the dishonour was due to a technical issue or a temporary lack of funds, the cheque can be resubmitted for payment.

Notice of Dishonour

Notice of dishonour is a critical step in the process following the dishonour of a negotiable instrument, such as a cheque, bill of exchange, or promissory note. When a negotiable instrument is presented for payment and is refused by the drawee or is not paid for any reason, it is said to be dishonoured. The notice of dishonour is a formal notification that must be sent to all parties liable on the instrument, informing them that the instrument has been dishonoured and that they are potentially liable for the payment.

Key Aspects of Notice of Dishonour:

  • Purpose:

The primary purpose of the notice is to inform the drawer and endorsers that the instrument has been dishonoured and that they are now liable to make the payment to the holder or bearer of the instrument.

  • Timing:

The notice of dishonour must be served promptly. Different jurisdictions may have specific legal requirements regarding the timing, but generally, the notice should be given within a reasonable time after the dishonour occurs. This allows the liable parties to take necessary actions without undue delay.

  • Form and Content:

While there is no strict format that the notice of dishonour must follow, it should clearly indicate that the specific instrument has been dishonoured and should identify the instrument by its amount, date, and any other relevant details. The notice does not necessarily need to be in writing in all jurisdictions, but written notices are preferable for evidentiary purposes.

  • Serving the Notice:

The notice of dishonour must be served to all parties liable to pay on the instrument, including the drawer and all endorsers. The method of serving the notice can vary, including personal delivery, mailing, or through electronic means, depending on the jurisdiction and the preferences of the parties involved.

  • Effect of Failure to Notify:

Failure to properly notify liable parties may release them from their obligation to pay under the instrument. However, certain parties, such as the principal debtor, may not be discharged from their liability due to lack of notice.

  • Exceptions:

In certain situations, the notice of dishonour may not be necessary, such as when the liable parties have waived the notice in advance or when the drawer has countermanded payment.

  • Legal Implications:

The notice of dishonour is integral to the enforcement of rights under a negotiable instrument. It triggers the liability of the drawer and endorsers and forms the basis for subsequent legal actions to recover the amount due. In many jurisdictions, specific laws govern the process of issuing a notice of dishonour, and failure to adhere to these laws can affect the holder’s ability to recover the funds.

  • Practical Considerations:

Given the importance of timely and proper notice, parties dealing with negotiable instruments should be familiar with the relevant legal requirements and procedures in their jurisdiction. Keeping accurate records and promptly addressing dishonoured instruments can help mitigate financial risks and legal complications.

Noting and Protesting

Noting and protesting are formal procedures related to the dishonor of negotiable instruments, such as bills of exchange, promissory notes, and cheques. These practices are more commonly associated with bills of exchange and are part of the customary mercantile law practices to formally record the fact of dishonor and to preserve the rights of holders to seek recourse against the parties liable on the instrument. While these practices are more prevalent in certain jurisdictions and may vary in their application and importance, understanding their basic principles is useful in the context of international trade and finance.


Noting is the initial step taken immediately after the dishonor of a negotiable instrument. When a negotiable instrument is presented for payment and dishonored, the holder may have it noted by a notary public. The notary public makes a formal record of the dishonor, which typically:

  • The fact that the instrument was presented for payment and dishonored.
  • The date and place of dishonor.
  • The reason given for dishonor, if any.
  • The notary’s charges.

The process of noting serves as a preliminary record of dishonor and is usually done as a precursor to protesting the instrument. Noting must be done within a reasonable time after dishonor to preserve the holder’s rights against the endorsers and the drawer.


Protesting is a more formal step that follows noting. It is the official certification of dishonor by a notary public. The protest document provides evidence that the instrument was presented for payment and dishonored. A protest typically includes:

  • A copy or a detailed description of the instrument.
  • The fact that presentment was made and the manner of presentment.
  • The fact of dishonor and the reason for dishonor, if provided.
  • The place and date of dishonor.
  • The signature of the notary public and their official seal.

Protesting is particularly important in international trade, as it serves as formal evidence of dishonor that can be used in legal proceedings across different jurisdictions. While the requirement for protesting can vary, it is a critical step in certain jurisdictions for maintaining the right to hold endorsers and the drawer liable.

Importance of Noting and Protesting

  1. Legal Evidence:

Noting and protesting provide conclusive evidence of the dishonor of a negotiable instrument, which can be crucial in legal proceedings to recover the amount due.

  1. Preservation of Rights:

These procedures help to preserve the rights of the holder to seek recourse against the drawer, endorsers, and other parties liable on the instrument.

  1. International Recognition:

In international trade, a protest is recognized as formal evidence of dishonor, facilitating the resolution of disputes across jurisdictions.

Modern Practices

In many jurisdictions, the requirement for noting and protesting has been relaxed, especially for instruments like cheques. However, for bills of exchange, especially in international transactions, these practices may still be significant. The laws governing negotiable instruments in each country will dictate the necessity and procedure for noting and protesting.