Exchange of goods and services is the basis of every business activity. Goods are bought and sold for cash as well as on credit. All these transactions require flow of cash either immediately or after a certain time. In modern business, large number of transactions involving huge sums of money take place everyday. It is quite inconvenient as well as risky for either party to make and receive payments in cash. Therefore, it is a common practice for businessmen to make use of certain documents as means of making payment. Some of these documents are called negotiable instruments. In this lesson let us learn about these documents.
After studying this lesson, you will be able to:
- explain the meaning of negotiable instruments;
- identify the various features of negotiable instruments;
- describe the various types of negotiable instruments; and
- differentiate between bills of exchange, promissory notes, and cheques.
17.2 Meaning of Negotiable Instruments
To understand the meaning of negotiable instruments let us take a few examples of day-to-day business transactions.
Suppose Pitamber, a book publisher has sold books to Prashant for Rs 10,000/- on three months Business Studies
credit. To be sure that Prashant will pay the money after three months, Pitamber may write an order addressed to Prashant that he is to pay after three months, for value of goods received by him, Rs.10,000/- to Pitamber or anyone holding the order and presenting it before him (Prashant) for payment. This written document has to be signed by Prashant to show his acceptance of the order. Now, Pitamber can hold the document with him for three months and on the due date can collect the money from Prashant. He can also use it for meeting different business transactions. For instance, after a month, if required, he can borrow money from Sunil for a period of two months and pass on this document to Sunil. He has to write on the back of the document an instruction to Prashant to pay money to Sunil, and sign it. Now Sunil becomes the owner of this document and he can claim money from Prashant on the due date. Sunil, if required, can further pass on the document to Amit after instructing and signing on the back of the document. This passing on process may continue further till the final payment is made.
In the above example, Prashant who has bought books worth Rs. 10,000/- can also give an undertaking stating that after three month he will pay the amount to Pitamber. Now Pitamber can retain that document with himself till the end of three months or pass it on to others for meeting certain business obligation (like with sunil, as discussed above) before the expiry of that three months time period.
You must have heard about a cheque. What is it? It is a document issued to a bank that entitles the person whose name it bears to claim the amount mentioned in the cheque. If he wants, he can transfer it in favour of another person. For example, if Akash issues a cheque worth Rs. 5,000/
- in favour of Bidhan, then Bidhan can claim Rs. 5,000/- from the bank, or he can transfer it to Chander to meet any business obligation, like paying back a loan that he might have taken from Chander. Once he does it, Chander gets a right to Rs. 5,000/- and he can transfer it to Dayanand, if required. Such transfers may continue till the payment is finally made to somebody.
In the above examples, we find that there are certain documents used for payment in business transactions and are transferred freely from one person to another. Such documents are called Negotiable Instruments. Thus, we can say negotiable instrument is a transferable document, where negotiable means transferable and instrument means document. To elaborate it further, an instrument, as mentioned here, is a document used as a means for making some payment and it is negotiable i.e., its ownership can be easily transferred.
Thus, negotiable instruments are documents meant for making payments, the ownership of which can be transferred from one person to other many times before the final payment is made.