Lawmakers criticized for passing amendment that ends imprisonment for writing bad checks

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AMMAN — The Lower House on Thursday approved an amendment to the Penal Code that removed the penalty for issuing checks without balance.اضافة اعلان

Deputies approved the amendment as received from the government; it will come into effect after three years, for markets to adapt to the decriminalization of bad checks. As such, Article 421 of the Penal Code will no longer apply once the amendment takes effect.

President of the Bar Association Mazen Irshaidat believes that “this is a risky decision that will have a negative impact on commercial and bank transactions”.

According to him, the amendment “will trigger an economic recession because traders will now opt for cash sales and will not accept to be paid later.”

A check is recognized as cash under the law, as it is a document that is payable once presented, he added.

“The check has lost this feature now,” Irshaidat said, adding that “this definition must be adjusted in pertinent laws since there is a conflict between the Penal Code and the Commercial Code”.

After three years, there will be no longer imprisonment for checks without balance, but civil suits may still be filed by the wronged party, said Ghazi Thunaibat, a lawmaker and member of the Lower House Legal Committee.

The check will be treated in the same way as a commercial paper or a bill of exchange in terms of legal procedures, he said, added that the Implementation Law, which stipulates that if the amount of a bad check is greater than JD5,000 imprisonment is imposed, will remain valid.

Thunaibat admitted that dealing with this issue represented a big challenge for the deputies, “but a solution was needed since the country was facing a difficult situation as a result of the large number of bad checks, which evolved into a credit tool, rather than a fulfillment tool”.

“The number of checks without balance is close one million, resulting in the creation of a false economy, and this situation had to be addressed by introducing the amendment,” he said.

People will gradually get used to the decision in the coming three years, he said, adding that the government was no longer capable of guaranteeing people’s rights and “the responsibility of dealing with non-paying companies and individuals should fall on the person who deals with them, not the government”.

According to Thunaibat, there are 148,000 arrest warrants for people writing bad checks.

“As a human rights activist, I find it difficult to comprehend the mindset of lawmakers in introducing this amendment,” said Issa Almaraziq, director of the National Center for Human Rights’ awareness and training department.

“It simply means that the state is no longer responsible for protecting people’s rights,” he added.

According to him, the amendment is a violation of the principles of international law because a check has always been a tool of fulfillment, just as cash.

He stressed that the Jordanian economy will suffer as a result of this decision.

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