This article is written by Srushti Khule, a student at NALSAR, University of Law, Hyderabad. It discusses the provisions of the IPC applicable to fake experience certificates and their punishments. Recent case laws concerning fundamentals are further discussed in the article.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
Can you imagine paragliding with a pilot who does not know how to handle an emergency exit if any unfortunate event happens? The imagination itself would be daunting. Recently, there have been many fatal paragliding incidents in Kullu. The investigation found that an agent had issued nearly 70 fake pilot experience certificates for licences. These fatal incidents might have led to serious injuries and deaths.
You may have seen people talking about theft, robbery, or even murder that happened last night in your neighbourhood. But have you ever caught people talking about tax evasion, money laundering, corporate fraud, or bribery? The answer would possibly be no, because these crimes, known as white-collar crimes, have become part of our daily lives that we will either ignore or accept. These are generally hidden behind the facade of public interest. These crimes are growing at a rapid pace in today’s world. Everywhere we look, we see corruption ingrained in our system. We are forced to become part of this system at some point.
Producing fake experience certificates is one such wrong found in every sector, whether education, health, or employment. The above example shows how fatal this can prove to innocent lives. Thus, the force of the law is needed to prevent such crimes. If offenders are not punished, these crimes may grow immensely and cause havoc in today’s corporate world. No specific provision is mentioned in Indian law, but it can be covered under various other law provisions. This article aims to delve into the punishments associated with fake experience certificates in India, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the legal consequences.
What is an experience certificate
An experience certificate is a document an employee receives after employment. It gives us details about past job experiences and associated information. It may include achievements, skills or knowledge acquired, job title, and period of employment. It is generally asked to produce it before the following organisation as proof of previous jobs. It may significantly impact the selection process and overall growth of the organisation that has hired employees.
Who makes/signs an experience certificate
Employers issue an experience certificate to the employee after completion of employment. Generally, it is issued by the company’s human resources (HR) department. The HR department supervises employee recruitment, training, development, relations, performance management, and workspace safety. It is one of the essential documents that an employee requires while leaving and is issued with the utmost care and caution.
Understanding the problem of fake experience certificates
Definition and forms of fake experience certificates
A fake experience certificate, as the name suggests, is a sham document an employee submits to an employer showing his false past work experience and associated information. It may be in various forms, such as inflated job titles, flaunted fake skills or knowledge, fabricated work experience, a pirated seal and signature of the mentioned organisation, a fictitious employment period, and a false position or designation of the employee in the mentioned organisation. These are only visible forms, but various other ways of fabricating the experience certificate may exist. This crime has risen so much that many organisations have started issuing fake certificates as a business. One can even make use of several applications to edit information in documents.
Reasons behind the prevalence of fake experience certificates
There may be many reasons for issuing fake experience certificates. Some individuals use it to advance their career opportunities through promotions or high-paying jobs. Some seek respect from others because having a prestigious job title or work experience may enhance their social status. The competitive job market may force them to resort to this method to reduce the risk of losing their job. The “myth of meritocracy” can be used to explain some reasons. For example, specific industries provide only merit-based, skill, and experience-based jobs. But everyone has no equal opportunity to acquire this merit, and there is inadequate skill development in their lives. Thus, some individuals may use fake experience certificates to fulfil those requirements. Thus, those with gap years use experience certificates to become qualified for such positions.
These are only a few of the many different reasons. Though a few reasons come from compulsion, one must never forget that this is a serious offence. Using fake certificates is not how to combat such situations because choosing this path may lead to severe consequences.
Impact of fake experience certificates on employers and the job market
It may compromise employment productivity and quality of work as individuals may not possess the necessary skills or experience for the job. As a result, the company may incur financial losses. The clients may become dissatisfied with the employee’s performance, and the company may even lose such clients. It can also damage a company’s reputation if it becomes known that it failed to conduct proper background checks. It can undermine the trust and credibility of the company in the eyes of clients, partners, and the public.
It erodes trust and confidence in the job market. Employers may become more sceptical about the hiring process, which can make the process difficult for genuine candidates. Legitimate candidates may face high competition from those who issue fake experience certificates. It can skew competition because it may become difficult for desired candidates to secure job opportunities. It may lead to distortions in the assessment of skills and qualifications.
How to identify genuine certificates
There is no definite formula to identify genuine certificates because fake certificates can be produced in various forms. You may always use some of the ways suggested below.
Design and language
The design and language of an original document can be used to distinguish it from a fake document. Check the verification code, if any, on the document. Nowadays, most documents have hologram watermarks that can be seen in the light. You may cross-check the language, font size, or writing style with another certificate from the same organisation or institution. You may also look for spelling mistakes in the certificate.
Use mentioned references
You may contact the company or organisation whose name is on the certificate. Seeking the details and type of job an employer did from that organisation can help immensely. You can do a background check on the employer through this. You may even check the location of the organisation by sending a postcard; this tells you whether the claimed organisation is in existence or not.
Ask for a blank email
This may be one of the easiest ways to check if a certificate is genuine. You may ask an employer to send a blank email from his company’s id. The one who has genuinely worked at that organisation will be able to do it, but this may become a trap for those who have forged the document.
Ask for more details in the interview
The person who is producing the fake certificate may not be able to answer all the detailed questions about his fake certificate; thus, seeking as much information as possible is one of the options. You may ask about his previous projects, experience in the job, name of supervisor, etc.
Provisions of the IPC that deal with fake experience certificates
There is no specific provision for defining fake experience certificates or prescribing punishment. But it can come under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code-
Section 463- Forgery
According to Section 463 of the IPC, forgery is committed when any false document, electronic record, or part of it is made to cause damage to others, support any claim or title, or cause another person to part with property or enter into a contract with the intent to commit fraud. While producing fake experience certificates, an employee is committing fraud on the employer by presenting himself as possessing skills or qualifications that he actually does not possess. In his false document, an employer may support the claim of a false job title, period of employment, skills or qualifications, and past experience in any organisation.
The motive behind making such fake documents could be to illicitly gain the desired position. It may be done to apply for promotions or high-paying jobs in the company. Sometimes employees forge documents to prove themselves better and more competitive among other employees. If caught, the consequences could be fatal. For instance, recently, Accenture India, one of the top consulting firms in India, fired many employees who had joined using fake experience certificates. It is an issue of dishonesty and a breach of trust. It needs the force of law to regulate it because the employee receives illicit advantages from a position he does not deserve. He prevents the company’s growth and other desirable candidates from securing that position.
Section 415- Cheating
According to Section 415 of the IPC, a person is said to cheat when he has the dishonest and fraudulent intention to deceive any person, either by making him deliver any property to any person or by giving consent to retain any property, or by making him do or omit to do anything that he would not have done or omitted if not deceived. This act or omission must cause or be likely to cause injury to the body, mind, reputation, and property of that person. For instance, if an employee counterfeits the seal or signature of any organisation for whom he has not worked but does this with a fraudulent intent to induce the employer to believe the counterfeited stamped certificate and hire him on the job, then he can be made liable for the offence of cheating.
The explanation under this Section says that dishonest concealment of facts is considered a deception. Fake experience certificates can be covered under dishonest concealment of facts regarding job title, tenure of employment, skills, etc, and considered deception.
Section 416- Cheating by personation
According to Section 416 of the IPC, if a person intentionally misrepresents himself as some other person, substitutes one person with another with full knowledge, or intentionally represents himself or any other person as someone that he or the other person is not in real life, it will be constituted as cheating by personation. The explanation under this Section says that it does not matter if the individual personified is fictitious or real. Fake experience certificates can come under this provision; for instance, if A cheats by pretending to be an employee with a specific job title or designation in some prestigious organisation, he is said to have committed an act of cheating by personation.
Section 468- Forgery for purpose of cheating
According to Section 468 of the IPC, a person is said to have committed this offence if he commits forgery with the intention of using those forged documents for cheating. This can be helped by the following illustration-
Suppose a man needs a loan from the bank but does not fulfil the requirements for applying for it. He makes a forged letter, counterfeiting the signature of the company’s HR department, mentioning that he has a high-paying job and is thus eligible for the loan. He submits that certificate with the aim of deception. He is liable for the offence of forgery for the purpose of cheating.
Section 470 – Forged document or electronic record
According to Section 470 of the IPC, a forged document is a document that contains false information through the act of forgery. The definition of electronic record is given under Section 29A of the IPC. It means any data generated or recorded, such as an image or sound, that is received, stored, or sent in electronic form. A fake experience certificate would be a forged document because it is a false document made wholly or partially by the act of forgery.
Section 471- Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record
According to Section 471 of the IPC, it is an offence if anyone represents and uses a forged document or electronic record as genuine. As per Section 29A of the IPC, electronic record refers to “data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received, or sent in an electronic form, microfilm, or computer generated micro fiche”. An offender must have reason to believe or know it is a forged document or electronic record.
For example, suppose a man is involved in a property dispute. To strengthen his claim in court, he uses a forged sale deed as evidence. He knows the sale deed is not genuine but intends to present it as a valid and authentic document. He is liable for an offence under Section 471. Similarly, if an employer produces a fake experience certificate and is aware that the certificate is forged but still uses it as a genuine document, he can be made liable under Section 471 IPC.
Punishment under different legal provisions for forging an experience certificate
Recently, the Delhi High Court ruled that the submission of fake documents should be viewed strictly and severely. The employee who submitted the forged document is unfit for employment. One should show no sympathy or compassion towards such employees.
Section 465- Punishment for forgery
According to Section 465 of the IPC, forgery is punishable by imprisonment, which may extend to a sentence of two years, a fine, or both. It is a non-cognizable and bailable offence, meaning police can arrest a person without a warrant or prior court permission. It is a non-compoundable offence, meaning the violation is such that a trial must be conducted, and no compromise can be entered between the victim and the accused.
The punishment could only be provided when a ‘false document’ is made. A false document is defined under Section 464 of the IPC, 1860. The false document is divided into three categories-
- A document made or executed claiming to be someone else or authorised by someone else; or
- A document unlawfully or fraudulently altered; or
- A document obtained by practising deception, such as knowing the reason for the unsoundness or intoxication or unawareness regarding a false document of another person.
Producing fake experience certificates may be punished under forgery because a person is making false documents to support the claim that he is well deserving of a position he otherwise is not deserving of. With his certificate, he is claiming to be someone he is not.
Section 417 – Punishment for cheating
According to Section 417 of the IPC, ‘cheating’ is a cognizable, non-bailable, and compoundable offence. It is punished with an imprisonment term, which may extend to one year, a fine, or both. Producing the fake experience certificate may be punishable by cheating because the employee is intentionally causing his new employer to hire him, which he otherwise would not have done. This act may cause harm to the organisation, which is the employer’s property, and thus constitute the offence of cheating.
Trust is fundamental to the survival of any relationship. In cheating, on the one hand, the victim places his utmost trust and confidence in the offender, and on the other hand, the offender has a dishonest intention of breaking that trust and causing wrongful loss to the victim. It may negatively impact the victim’s mind, resulting in low self-esteem and scepticism. It may even damage his reputation and lead to financial losses. Thus, punishing the offender becomes necessary.
The Section uses ‘fraudulently’ and ‘dishonestly’ separated by ‘or.’ Fraudulently means having the intention to deceive someone, and dishonestly means causing wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another. Either of these two elements must be fulfilled to make them liable for punishment under Section 417.
Section 468- Punishment of forgery for purpose of cheating
According to Section 468, a forgery for the purpose of cheating is a cognizable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence. A person is punished with an imprisonment term extending to seven years and a fine if he commits forgery with the intention of cheating. It is considered one of the most specific and aggravated forms of forgery. It is graver than a single act of forgery or cheating. This has a more severe punishment than the other two. Intention is a necessary element to constitute an offence. The intention to use forged documents for cheating is essential. This Section should be seen in the light of the sections mentioning specific offences of forgery and cheating for a comprehensive understanding.
Section 471- using a forged document or electronic record as genuine
According to Section 471 of the IPC, if the person has used a forged document or electronic record as genuine, he is liable to be punished in the same manner as if he had forged a document, with an imprisonment term extending up to two years, a fine, or both. The intention to deceive or cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another is essential to constituting an offence. If the person is unaware of the inauthenticity of any document or electronic record and uses it as valid and authentic, then he is not liable under Section 471.
Punishment under Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act, 2000, was enacted by the legislature to legally recognise transactions through electronic means and combat cybercrimes. One may issue fake experience certificates through electronic means, such as by using an electronic signature, editing, stealing information, etc.; thus, the IT Act may apply to combat these crimes. The following sections may include fake experience certificates-
Section 66 C- Punishment for identity theft
According to Section 66 C of the IT Act, if a person uses an electronic signature, password, or any other unique identification of another person, then he commits an offence of theft of personation. An essential element is the presence of an intention to deceive or cause wrongful gain to one and wrongful loss to another. He can be punished with an imprisonment term extending up to three years and a fine extending up to Rs. 1 lakh.
Section 66 D- Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource
According to Section 66 D of the IT Act, if a person misrepresents or pretends to be someone else he is actually not, through the means of any communication device or computer resource, he is said to have committed the offence under Section 66 D. He can be punished with an imprisonment term extending up to three years and a fine extending up to Rs. 1 lakh.
Punishment under the Companies Act, 2013
The Companies Act, 2013, was enacted by the legislature to consolidate and amend the laws relating to companies, such as appointment and qualification of directors, audits and auditors, frauds committed against companies, etc. Issuing fake experience certificates in employment may be covered under the Companies Act, 2013, through the following sections.
Section 447 – Punishment for fraud
According to Section 447 of the Companies Act, 2013, if any person commits fraud or conceals any facts concerning the affairs of the company, they are punishable with a minimum imprisonment of six months that can be extended up to ten years and liable to a fine not less than the fraud amount; the maximum fine may be extended up to three times the amount of fraud. There must be intent to deceive or injure any company or other person.
Section 448- Punishment for false statement
According to Section 448 of the Companies Act, 2013, if any person makes a statement in the form of a document, report, certificate, financial statement, or prospectus that he knows to be false, he is liable to be punished under Section 447. If he omits the material fact with the knowledge that it is material, he is also liable under the Section.
Manju Devi v State of U.P ( 2015)
In this case, Allahabad HC held that some notice or opportunity to explain the act of forging the document should be given. Here, the petitioner was terminated from the post because she submitted a fake document for a past teaching experience. But the recovery proceedings initiated and the FIR filed were held as non-sustainable by the Court because she was not given any opportunity for an explanation.
Commissioner, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti & Ors. v. Damodar Singh Gunawat (2023)
In this case, the petitioner was a cook whose employment was terminated on the allegation that he produced a forged experience certificate showing five years of cooking experience. The disciplinary inquiry conducted went against him, and he was removed. The Rajasthan High Court, upholding the tribunal’s ruling in favour of the accused, said that no order of punishment could be passed because the order was passed solely on documentary evidence and no witnesses were examined to prove it.
The High Court of Rajasthan relied on the Supreme Court decision in the case of L.I.C. of India v. Ram Pal Singh Bisen (2010), wherein it was held that an order of punishment could not be sustained, which is given solely based on documentary evidence and no witnesses examined.
Managing Committee, Goswami Ganesh Dutt Sanatan Dharam College, Palwal v. Sabir Hussain (2022)
In this case, an employee of the school was accused of forging a document regarding the benefits of the NCC and sports certificates. He was thus terminated from employment as a punishment. The Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld it and stated that employment obtained by fraud could not be valid in the eyes of the law. It is a reasonable punishment, and no protection against the dispensation of services could be sought.
Gaurav Malik v. CBI (2022)
In this case, the appellant had submitted a forged experience certificate, without which he was not even eligible to apply for the post. The charges were filed against him. An appeal was made in the Delhi High Court, which dismissed it and kept the charges under the above sections by stating that failure to produce an original document does not become a reason to dismiss the charges.
Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. Rajendra D. Harmalkar (2022)
In this case, the accused was dismissed from service by the disciplinary authority for producing a forged certificate of educational qualification. It was argued by the accused that no age limit or educational qualification was used to secure a job or promotion. The intention to submit forged documents was only to maintain records. The High Court of Bombay acknowledged this argument and declared the action of the disciplinary authority as disproportionate. Conversely, the Supreme Court observed that the question is not one of intention or mens rea but one of trust. It questioned how an employee who produced a fake certificate at the initial stage of an appointment would be trusted by an employer. This is grave misconduct, and it is immaterial whether the certificate has any bearing on employment. It accordingly quashed the Bombay High Court and upheld the decision of the disciplinary authority of dismissal from service as justified.
Vidya K. Maniyanodi v. State of Kerala
Here, the accused is alleged to have produced a fake experience certificate. She is charged with the offences under Section 465 (punishment for forgery), Section 468 (forgery for the purposes of cheating), and Section 471 (punishment for using a forged document as genuine) of the IPC. She has recently moved the Kerala High Court for anticipatory bail on the basis that offences under Sections 465 and 471 are bailable and Section 468 does not apply to her case.
Twelve government employees terminated
In this recent incident, which occurred in October 2022, the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) terminated the employment of 12 government bus drivers, conductors, and engineers after they were found guilty of submitting fake experience certificates during the recruitment process.
Pune PCMC lost Rs. 1.02 crore
In this incident, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation recently filed a case against a contractor for submitting a fake work experience certificate to receive a contract for water supply. The contractor had submitted a fake letter from the company, won the tender, and got Rs. 1 crore for completing the project.
We saw that there is no specific provision under the IPC, the Information Technology Act, 2000, or the Companies Act, 2013, for producing a fake experience certificate. Thus, the analysis of various judicial opinions should be considered to understand the fundamentals. One may apply different provisions of the law to punish offenders for issuing fake experience certificates. It is important to understand that one should prevent oneself and others from issuing any type of fake document or fake experience certificate. Today, everyone is economically interdependent; thus, building and sustaining trust is essential. Producing fake documents may lead to losing trust and credibility. It may harm one’s employment opportunities in the future. It is against ethical behaviour and may permanently damage one’s reputation. Apart from these moral and ethical reasons, it is a serious crime that engulfs every individual at some stage. These little wrongs constitute a significant crime against the country and hamper its growth and development. Thus, more steps are needed to prevent this offence.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which provision of IPC includes producing fake experience certificates?
There is no specific offence defined under the IPC relating to a fake experience certificate. However, it can be included under some provisions such as forgery, cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating, and other similar provisions.
What is the role of mens rea in producing fake experience certificates?
An intention to deceive is necessary for committing such a wrong. An individual cannot be held liable without having the malafide intention to cause wrongful gain to one and wrongful loss to another.
Is the offence of producing a fake experience certificate cognizable or non-cognizable, and compoundable or non-compoundable?
It is not provided under any specific provision of the IPC. It may depend on the facts and circumstances and the charges under which the case is filed. For instance, if charges are filed under cheating, they will be cognizable, and if they are filed under forgery, they will be non-cognizable.
How can employers detect fake experience certificates?
Employers can employ various methods to detect fake experience certificates, including verifying the authenticity of the issuing organisation, contacting the claimed employers directly for verification, conducting thorough background checks, and scrutinising the details provided on the certificate for any inconsistencies.
Are there any legitimate ways to enhance one’s experience without resorting to fake certificates?
Several legitimate ways exist to enhance one’s experience without resorting to fake certificates. These include pursuing internships, volunteering, taking relevant courses or certifications, freelancing, participating in industry projects, and actively seeking opportunities to gain practical experience in the desired field.
- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/hc-refus es-relief-to-woman-submitting-forged-documents-for-employment/article66877249.ece
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