This article is written by Panya Sethi, a law student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida. The article covers the meaning of forgery as laid out under Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, the essential ingredients that entail forgery, including the creation of a fake document or electronic record, the intent to harm any member of the public, and illustrations to explain the instances of forgery and the punishment for the same under Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
Forgery is defined as an offence under Chapter 18 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Cases involving the falsification of written or digital records are addressed in Sections 463 through 477-A. One such law is Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The definition of forgery under Section 463 and the penalties for it have been thoroughly examined in this article. In addition, my research has led me to conclude that extreme examples of forgeries do exist. (Section 466-469). For example, forgery with the intent to defraud (Section 468), forgery with the intent to smear (Section 469), etc. Case laws are cited and examined in the last section of the article, which covers Sections 472 through 477-A.
The purposeful creation or alteration of a document or electronic record with the goal to deceive or fraudulently obtain money or property is known as forgery, which is a severe felony. According to Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, this unlawful conduct qualifies as a serious crime. Given the potential damage that may result from using counterfeit papers, it is crucial to implement strict methods to stop, detect, and punish such fraudulent behaviour.
Punishment for the crime of forgery committed with the purpose to defraud another person is laid forth under Section 468 of the IPC. Forgery is committed by anyone who creates false documents or false electronic records, or parts of documents or electronic records, with the intent to cause damage or injury to the public or to any person, or to support any claim or title, or to cause any person to part with property, or to enter into any express or implied contract, or with the intent to commit fraud or the possibility of fraud.
The following examples illustrate:
Making, signing, sealing, or otherwise executing a document dishonestly or fraudulently with the intent to make it appear as though it was made, signed, sealed, or otherwise executed by the authority of a person over whom the maker did not have authority to do so, and then transmitting any electronic record to that effect.
Second, each time an individual, either alone or with assistance, engages in dishonest or fraudulent activity using a written or digital record.
Third, when someone is dishonest or fraudulent by having another person sign, seal, execute, or amend a document when that person cannot do so because of drunkenness, mental impairment, or dishonesty.
Under Section 463 of the IPC, forgery is defined as the “making of any forged document or electronic record.”
In the case of Sheila Sebastian v. R. Jawahraj & Another (2018), both Sections 463 and 464 of the IPC were discussed. Forgery is defined in Section 463, and Section 464 supports this definition by explaining when a forged paper or digital record might be considered to have been created with the intent to conduct forgery as defined in Section 463. Section 464, however, only addresses one of the key components of forgery, namely, the creation of a counterfeit document. The Supreme Court also ruled that an accusation of forgery could not be brought against someone who was not the original creator of the forged document.
In T.N. Rugmini v. C. Achutta Menon (1990), the Supreme Court of India stated that, using another person’s name to apply for anything does not constitute forgery under Section 464 of the IPC.
In order to sell an estate to B and get the purchase money from B, A forges a document claiming to be a transfer of the estate from Z to A and affixes Z’s seal to the document without Z’s permission. A has forged certain documents.
To get work with Z, A forges B’s signature on a letter attesting to A’s good moral character without B’s knowledge or consent. To the extent that A faked the certificate with the intent to convince Z to enter into an explicit or implicit contract for service, A has committed forgery.
To commit the crime of forgery under Section 463 of the IPC, a person must behave dishonestly or fraudulently in order to cause hurt or damage to another person by preparing and signing the fake document.
Requisites of forgery
The essential element of the crime of forgery, as defined by Section 463 of the IPC, is “the intentional creation of a false document or part thereof with the intent to damage or injure another person or the public; to support any claim or title; to induce the transfer of property; to induce the entering into of an implied or express contract; or to commit fraud or that fraud may be committed in the future.”
Producing a forgery
The primary element necessary to establish criminal liability for the crime of forging is the creation of a fake document or electronic record. According to Section 464, the accused individual is the one who creates the forged document. Section 464 defines the acts that constitute the creation of a fraudulent document or electronic record. It does not need to be published or prepared in the name of a real person for the fraud to take effect; it only has to be legitimate.
A person is said to have prepared a fake document if, as noted by the Supreme Court in Mohd Ibrahim v. State of Bihar (2009), they signed anything as someone else or with someone else’s signature on it; tampered with an official record, or got a document by lying to or otherwise duping an inebriated person.
Injure or harm any member of the public
The second requirement is that the forgery must have been done with the specific intent to harm someone or something. According to the ruling in Sanjiv Ratanappa v. Emperor (1932), the Bombay High Court ruled that a police officer who alters his diary to represent that he did not keep particular people under surveillance would not be guilty of the crime of forgery since no other person was put in danger. As a result, if no one is hurt, no charges will be filed under Section 463 of the IPC.
As evidence for a position or a title
Section 463 makes it illegal to forge papers to prove ownership of property and makes anyone guilty of doing so. For instance, D has promised that my estate would be split three ways between A, B, and C following his death and intentionally erased B’s name from the deed so that he and C could divide the whole estate. As such, A is guilty of forgery and subject to punishment under Section 463 of the IPC.
To coerce a person into giving up their possessions
The fact that the property in question already existed at the time the forged document was prepared is irrelevant if the forgery was committed with the aim to defraud, harm, or injure another person.
Here’s an illustration: Say A commissions B to manufacture a sofa bed for him, but then C, before B completes the order, forges A’s signature on a letter claiming to authorise B to send the sofa bed to D. This would constitute fraud.
A person may be held responsible for fraud if he or she creates a fraudulent document with the aim to deceive another person. There must be dishonest intent for there to be fraud.
Here’s an illustration: B creates a painting and pretends to sign it with the name of a famous artist. He puts up for auction the identical photograph that C eventually bought. By making C believe the artwork was created by a famous artist when, in fact, it was created by B, B will be guilty of the crime of forgery. Even if nobody bought the image, B might still be charged with forgery if he or she exposed it to the market with the purpose of misleading the public.
The consequences of forgery
Forgery is a crime that carries the penalties outlined in Section 465 of the IPC. Forgery is punishable by a maximum 2-year sentence, a fine, or both, as stated in this section. For a person to be held guilty under the ambit of Section 468, it must be proved that he has made a wrongful gain by deceiving the person or other entity. It is necessary that some kind of advantage be enjoyed by the person deceiving others.
The offence under this section does not require that the accused actually commit the offence of cheating; what matters here is the intention, or we can also say the purpose, of the person committing such an act of forgery.
The offence committed under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and triable by a Magistrate of the First Class. The term of punishment includes imprisonment which may also be extended to 7 years, or with fine or with both, depending on the matter.
One of the landmark judgements by the Supreme Court of India for Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code was given in the case of Dr. Vimla v. Delhi Administration (1962). Dr. Vimla bought a power car in the name of her minor daughter and transferred the policy to her daughter’s name. Later, the car met with two subsequent accidents, and Dr. Vimla filed two consecutive claims against the insurance policy.
Dr. Vimla signed the claim papers as Nalini (her daughter) and acknowledged the receipts as well. It was held by the Supreme Court that the accused, Vimla, was not guilty of the offence under Section 468 IPC. It was so because the said deceit neither secured to her the advantage of the claim amount nor did the insurance company face any kind of economic loss.
In the case of State of Orissa v. Bishnu Charan Muduli (1985), the bus’s driver and cleaner were found guilty of causing an accident after switching the vehicle’s licence plate and fabricating the registration book to match. Both were held guilty of violating Section 477-A of the Indian Penal Code by the Orissa High Court.
In Mohd Ibrahim v. State of Bihar (2009), the Supreme Court of India held that “a person is said to have made a false document if he or she made or executed a document claiming to be somebody else or authorised by someone else, altered or tampered with a document or obtained a document practising deception or from a person not in his senses.”
In Sanjiv Ratanappa v. Emperor (1932), the Bombay High Court stated that “a police officer who makes any changes in his diary so as to show that he had not kept certain persons under surveillance will not be liable for the offence of forgery because there is no risk of damage or injury to any other individual.”
In Sheila Sebastian v. R. Jawaharaj (2018), the Supreme Court of India declared that a person who is not a manufacturer of forgeries cannot be given the command of forging. The Court also ruled that a forgery offence is incomplete without the elements of Section 463. Hence, an individual cannot be convicted under Section 465 based merely on the essentials of Section 464.
In the matter of Guru Bipin Singh v. Chongtham Manohar Singh (1996), the Supreme Court explored another facet of forgery’s provisional interpretation. Forgery with the intent to defraud to a greater extent is discussed in Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code and is punishable by up to seven years in jail. The Supreme Court determined that forgery is the primary claim and cheating is a secondary effect in this case. Consequently, if forgery is not relevant, neither is cheating. Section 468 talks of a more aggravated form of forgery.
In the case of Kishan Lal v. State (1989), the Delhi High Court stated that the defendant claimed to be the payee when he was not and signed the postal acknowledgement in the name of the real payee. According to the Court’s ruling, Section 467 of the IPC holds the accused accountable for the offence.
The Supreme Court held that the defendant was found not guilty in Nand Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar (1992) due to a lack of evidence showing that he knew about and gave his approval for the co-accused to fake the papers in order to get the LIC insurance. The sole proof in front of the Court was the crediting of premium amounts to his account, which was insufficient to establish his culpability under Section 468.
Forgery is considered a serious offence under Indian law, and it carries significant penalties. Section 468 of the IPC prescribes a maximum punishment of seven years of imprisonment and a fine for individuals found guilty of forgery. In simple terms, forgery involves creating a falsified document with the intention to deceive or cause harm to others. This may include using false documents to support fraudulent claims, induce someone to give up property, enter into contracts, or commit other types of fraud. Any such action is deemed illegal and can result in severe legal consequences.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is forgery?
Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code defines forgery as making any false document or any part of it with the motive to cause injury or damage to the public or any particular person, supporting any title or claim, causing any person to part with his property, or entering into any implied or express contract to commit fraud or fraud that may be committed. The definition of a forged document is given in Section 470 of the Indian Penal Code.
What are the essential ingredients that cause forgery for the purpose of cheating?
The following elements need to be proven under Section 468 of the Indian Penal Code
- The document or electronic record is forged.
- The accused forged the document or electronic record.
- The accused forged the document or electronic record intending that the forged document would be used for the purpose of cheating.
What are the defences available for the charge of forgery?
Usually, the lack of proof of forgery is something most defence attorneys rely on. The general argument is that by merely being a beneficiary of the act, one cannot be held liable for forgery, i.e. There cannot be a presumption of guilt. Suspicion cannot replace actual proof of the crime. The principle of strict interpretation of the law is followed in criminal cases since the doctrine of presumption of innocence of the accused is seen.
The defences available are as follows:
- The forged document was not made by the offender;
- The document was not made with the purpose of causing injury or damage, supporting a title or claim, entering into any contract, causing any person to part with property, or causing fraud;
- The accused had authority over what he did; and
- The accused was forced to commit the offence by way of coercion.
Who does the burden to prove damage lie on?
The burden to prove damage lies with the prosecution. The essence of the crime of forgery is the intention of the accused to defraud the victim is beyond reasonable doubt.
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