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Extinguishment of rights of action on bill in acceptor’s hands

Section 90 of the Negotiable Instruments Act,1881.

If a bill of exchange which has been negotiated is, at or after maturity, held by the acceptor in his own right, all rights of action thereon are extinguished.

This section deals with the final discharge of a bill. The acceptor of a bill is the principal debtor and the other parties are sureties. So, where the acceptor becomes the holder the natural inference is that he has paid for it and nothing is due under it, but this can be shown to be untrue. Where the acceptor in his own right becomes the holder, the present right and the liability unite in one and the same person and cancel each other and the bill is discharged. But the acceptor must hold it at or after maturity to discharge the bill.

When a bill is negotiated back to the acceptor before maturity, he may reissue it but he cannot enforce payment against any intervening party to whom he was liable. If there are more acceptors than one and the bill is negotiated in the hand of any one of them who holds it till maturity the bill is discharged. He shall hold the bill in his own right and not as the agent of, or administrator or executor to the estate of, some other person. An acceptor who holds the instrument with a defective title cannot be said to hold it in his own right. Where a promissory note has no endorsement of any payment and there is nothing to show that the endorsee is aware of any payment to the endorser and the endorsee is a holder in due course, he is entitled to recover according to the apparent tenor of the instrument.

If the instrument has been discharged, the remedy of the person paying is to sue for a refund of the amount, he has to pay over again, from the original payee.

Extent of the section

The section, as worded, applies only to bills. But the position of an acceptor of a bill is the same as that of a maker of a promissory note. Therefore, the same principle would apply to payments at or after maturity by the maker of a note.