Commercial Bills

The working capital requirement of business firms is provided by banks through cash-credits / overdraft and purchase/discounting of commercial bills.

Commercial bill is a short term, negotiable, and self-liquidating instrument with low risk. It enhances he liability to make payment in a fixed date when goods are bought on credit. According to the Indian Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, bill or exchange is a written instrument containing an unconditional order, signed by the maker, directing to pay a certain amount of money only to a particular person, or to the bearer of the instrument. Bills of exchange are negotiable instruments drawn by the seller (drawer) on the buyer (drawee) or the value of the goods delivered to him. Such bills are called trade bills. When trade bills are accepted by commercial banks, they are called commercial bills. The bank discount this bill by keeping a certain margin and credits the proceeds. Banks, when in need of money, can also get such bills rediscounted by financial institutions such as LIC, UTI, GIC, ICICI and IRBI. The maturity period of the bills varies from 30 days, 60 days or 90 days, depending on the credit extended in the industry.

Types of Commercial Bills:

Commercial bill is an important tool finance credit sales. It may be a demand bill or a usance bill. A demand bill is payable on demand, that is immediately at sight or on presentation by the drawee. A usance bill is payable after a specified time. If the seller wishes to give sometime for payment, the bill would be payable at a future date. These bills can either be clean bills or documentary bills. In a clean bill, documents are enclosed and delivered against acceptance by drawee, after which it becomes clear. In the case of a documentary bill, documents are delivered against payment accepted by the drawee and documents of bill are filed by bankers till the bill is paid.

Commercial bills can be inland bills or foreign bills. Inland bills must (1) be drawn or made in India and must be payable in India: or (2) drawn upon any person resident in India. Foreign bills, on the other hand, are (1) drawn outside India and may be payable and by a party outside India, or may be payable in India or drawn on a party in India or (2) it may be drawn in India and made payable outside India. A related classification of bills is export bills and import bills. While export bills are drawn by exporters in any country outside India, import bills are drawn on importers in India by exporters abroad.

The indigenous variety of bill of exchange for financing the movement of agricultural produce, called a ‘hundi’ has a long tradition of use in India. It is vogue among indigenous bankers for raising money or remitting funds or to finance inland trade. A hundi is an important instrument in India; so indigenous bankers dominate the bill market. However, with reforms in the financial system and lack of availability of funds from private sources, the role of indigenous bankers is declining.

With a view to eliminating movement of papers and facilitating multiple rediscounting, RBI introduced an innovation instruments known as ‘Derivative Usance Promissory Notes,’ backed by such eligible commercial bills for required amounts and usance period (up to 90 days). Government has exempted stamp duty on derivative usance promissory notes. This has simplified and streamlined bill rediscounting by institutions and made the commercial bill an active instrument in the secondary money market. This instrument, being a negotiable instrument issued by banks, is a sound investment for rediscounting institutions. Moreover rediscounting institutions can further discount the bills anytime prior to the date of maturity. Since some banks were using the facility of rediscounting commercial bills and derivative usance promissory notes of as short a period as one day, the Reserve Bank restricted such rediscounting to a minimum period of 15 days. The eligibility criteria prescribed by the Reserve Bank for rediscounting commercial bills are that the bill should arise out of a genuine commercial transaction showing evidence of sale of goods and the maturity date of the bill should to exceed 90 days from the date of rediscounting.

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