Offences relating to Coins and Government Stamps

By | May 25, 2020
Coins and Stamps

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Offences relating to Coins and Government Stamps | Overview

The offence of counterfeiting coins and government stamps are dealt with within this article. The introductory part explains the definition of “coins” and “Indian coins” for a better understanding of these offences. The classification of offences related to coins is mentioned. The offences of counterfeiting coins and dealing with instruments of counterfeiting coins are briefly explained. Then offence related to alteration of coins and offences related to mint employees is mentioned. The offence of government stamps is also mentioned.

Introduction

The offence of cheating, its forms and its punishment are dealt in the chapter titled “Of Offences Related to Coins and Government Stamps”[1] in the penal code of India. The penal code of India makes a differentiation between “coins” and “Indian coins”. Section 230 of the Indian penal code defines coins and Indian coins.[2]

230 Coin defined— Coin is metal used for the time being as money, and stamped and issued by the authority of some State or Sovereign Power in order to be so used.

Indian coin— Indian coin is metal stamped and issued by the authority of the Government of India in order to be used as money; and metal which has been so stamped and issued shall continue to be Indian coin for the purposes of this Chapter, notwithstanding that it may have ceased to be used as money

Illustrations

  1. Cowries are not coin
  2. Lumps of unstamped copper, though used as money, are not coins
  3. Medals are not coins, inasmuch as they are not intended to be used as money
  4. The coin denominated as the Company’s rupee is Indian coin
  5. The “Farrukhabad rupee”, which was formerly used as money under the authority of the Government of India, is Indian coin although it is no longer so used”

The offences regarding coins are divided into three classes “counterfeiting”, “Criminal acts of mint employees” and “alteration of coins” based on the offences mentioned in this relevant chapter of the penal code of India.

Counterfeiting

The offence of “counterfeiting coin” is provided in section 231[3] and “counterfeiting Indian coin” is provided in section 232[4] of the penal code.

231 Counterfeiting coin— Whoever counterfeits or knowingly performs any part of the process of counterfeiting coin, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine

Explanation— A person commits this offence who intending to practise deception, or knowing it to be likely that deception will thereby be practised, causes a genuine coin to appear like a different coin”

232 Counterfeiting Indian coin— Whoever counterfeits, or knowingly performs any part of the process of counterfeiting Indian coin, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

The definition of “counterfeiting” is provided in section 28 of the penal code.[5] It states that – “A person is said to “counterfeit” who causes one thing to resemble another thing, intending by means of that resemblance to practise deception, or knowing it to be likely that deception will thereby be practised”.

To prove that one has counterfeited it is not necessary that the replica be exactly similar to the original one.[6] It is sufficient if one coin counterfeited by the accused is capable of being circulated in the market and is so closely resembling the genuine one. The moment it is proved that the coin is different from the genuine one, the accused will be presumed to be guilty of counterfeiting.[7] The presumption lies until the accused proves it to be contrary.[8]

As it has been explicitly mentioned in the other crimes that dishonest and fraudulent intent of the accused plays an important role for conviction. But in this section there lies a reason why it was not mentioned. Hence, the lawmakers thought it sufficient if the accused had the intention or knowledge of committing deceit by counterfeiting or deception is likely due to his acts of counterfeiting. Further, the intention or knowledge must be proximate to the act of deceiving through imitating genuine coin.

In the case of Velayyudhan Pillai v. Emperor, AIR 1937 Mad 711, where an accused counterfeited some coins placing it in the house of the victim in order to accuse and convict him for such offence. The court held that the accused lacked any kind of intention to defraud the government or gain anything personally. Thus, he will not be liable for counterfeiting but he can be liable for falsely charging another person or persons with the intention to cause harm or injury to them as well as for fabricating the false evidence under the penal code of India.[9]

The law requires the coin which is being imitated to be the one which at that time is currently in usage. For example, the coin used in the age-old empire of Akbar or the Shahjahan is not considered as a coin for the understanding of this section as it is not in use right now.[10] But there is an exception to this statement, that if the coin is a “company’s rupee” or “Farrukhabad rupee” it is considered as “Indian coin” for the understanding of this section.[11]

Instrument for Counterfeiting

The law in India punishes for the creation or sale of the instruments which are helpful for imitating such genuine coins. Section 233 deals with the offence of “making or selling instruments for counterfeiting coins”[12] and section 234 deals with the offence of “making or selling instruments for counterfeiting Indian coins”[13] given in the penal code of India.

233. Making or selling instruments for counterfeiting coin— Whoever makes or mends, or performs any part of the process of making or mending, or buys, sells or disposes of, any die or instrument, for the purpose of being used, or knowing or having reason to believe that it is intended to be used, for the purpose of counterfeiting coin, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may be extended to three years, and shall also be liable to fine”

234. Making or selling instruments for counterfeiting Indian coin— Whoever makes or mends, or performs any part of the process of making or mending or buys, sells or disposes of, any die or instrument, for the purpose of being used, or knowing or having reason to believe that it is intended to be used, for the purpose of counterfeiting Indian coin, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”

 Further even possession of such instruments is an offence as per section 235 of the penal code.[14] This can be considered as an exception to the rule that criminal law does not anyone when they are in the preparation stage of that offence.

235 Possession of instrument or material for the purpose of using the same for counterfeiting coin— Whoever is in possession of any instrument or material, for the purpose of using the same for counterfeiting coin, or knowing or having reason to believe that the same is intended to be used for that purpose, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine;

if Indian coin— and if the coin to be counterfeited is Indian coin, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

In the case of Zamir Hussain v. Crown, AIR 1950 Lah 97, the court said that the fact that a wife was having the knowledge about her husband’s possession of instruments for counterfeiting coins will not be conclusive of liability and the same will be applicable for the relations of the husband also who may be residing at the same house. The court further clarified that it is the actual possession of an instrument or anything related for the purpose of counterfeiting that is made punishable under this section and not the mere knowledge about the possession of someone else.[15]

Here possession means an intention to use the possessed article i.e. the possessor has to be conscious of the purpose of the instrument. Therefore mere possession of the instrument or any material capable of making counterfeit coins will not be an offence under this section until it is proved that the individual possessing the same is having any intention of making such counterfeit coins or for selling the coins.[16] If the accused has no control or power over the instrument or material which is possessed by him, then it does not satisfy the requirement of the term “possession” in this section. This section requires the actual possession and conscious choice of the accused of retaining it.[17]

Abetment of the Offence

The act of counterfeiting is an offence even if it is abetted. The law punishes the abetment of counterfeiting in section 236.[18] It is an offence if such abetment takes place in India and counterfeiting of coins is out of India. The nationality of the accused is not material, this section is applicable to every person of any nationality who abets in India of counterfeiting out of India.

Import or Export: Punishable or Not?

The penal code makes the import or export of counterfeited coins punishable. The section 237 deals with offence of “Import or Export of Counterfeit coin”[19] and section 238 deals with offence of “Import or Export of Counterfeit Indian coin”[20] under the code. Here the section 237 is generally applicable to the counterfeit of any coin but section 238 is applicable specifically to counterfeit of Indian coins.

The punishment depends upon the proof of the type of coin being imported or exported. Further, the importer or the exporter who is accused under either of these sections must have the knowledge. The knowledge must be pertaining to coins being counterfeit and if not, there must be reasons to believe that the coins to be counterfeit in which the accused is dealing. Hence, it is the prosecution’s burden to prove the mens rea of the accused of conviction under any of these sections.

Delivery of Counterfeit Coins: When is it an Offence?

The delivery of counterfeit coin is an offence but, when is it an offence? The delivery of counterfeit coins is an offence after it has been possessed with requisite knowledge of being counterfeit and then delivered. It is punishable under section 239[21] and section 240 deals with the delivery of Indian coins which are possessed and then delivered, with the knowledge that the Indian coin to be counterfeit.[22]

What if the accused had no knowledge of coin being counterfeit at the time he possessed it first? Is it still an offence? In such a case, it will amount to offence, when the accused has the requisite knowledge of the coin being counterfeit at the time of delivering it to someone else. Section 241 deals with the offence of  “Delivery of coin as genuine, which, when first possessed, the deliverer did not know to be counterfeit”, punishable under the penal code.[23] This section applies generally to all types of coins which falls within the ambit of the definition provided in section 230.

Further, it is an offence when there is a possession of counterfeit coins by the accused after the coins have been delivered to the accused who has knowledge that the coins are counterfeit when he possesses it. The section 242 deals with the offence of “ Possession of counterfeit coin by person who knew it to be counterfeit when he became possessed thereof”[24] and offence of  “Possession of Indian coin by a person who knew it to be counterfeit when he became possessed thereof” is dealt by section 243.[25]

For conviction under these sections, the accused must have had the fraudulent intention at the time he possessed those counterfeit coins. Thus, Even if a person possesses a coin and at the time of possession he had the knowledge that the coin was counterfeit but he was not having any intention to defraud anyone, then he can not be charged. For example, if a person possesses a coin and then realises it later that the coin was a counterfeit, he may keep the coin in order to pass it to another person at a suitable opportunity. Such possession is not criminal as he lacks the intention to defraud at the time when he came into contact with the counterfeit coin. Therefore, the subsequent possession will not be an offence until and unless it is delivered with requisite mens rea.[26]

Apart from that if a person purchases a coin knowing that it is counterfeit but only for the purpose of the collection still it will not be an offence, as he lacks the fraudulent intention to use that counterfeit coin.

Offences related to Mint Employees

The minting of coins is required to be done as the law and government prescribes. If the weight of the coin or the composition differs from what law has fixed then, it is an offence under the penal code of India. The section 244 punishes “Person employed in mint causing the coin to be of different weight or composition from that fixed by law”[27] and the section 245 deals with the offence of “Unlawfully taking coining instruments from mint”.[28]

Further, the law punishes not only the employees but also for the alteration of coins or its composition by any person and it is dealt with in sections 246 to 254 of the penal code of India.[29]

II. Offences relating to Government Stamps

Sections 255 to 263[30] and section 263-A of the penal code[31] deals with offences relating to government stamps. These stamps are basically impressions upon paper or parchment or any other material which are used for writing or are sold for the purpose of revenue, hence counterfeiting these valuables is an offence under the code.

In the case of Joti Prashad v. State of Haryana, 1993 Supp (2) SCC 497, the accused possessed counterfeit court fee stamps and the court had to decide whether the accused had knowledge or reason to believe the stamps were counterfeit. The court distinguished between “knowledge” and “reason to believe” as follows – “Knowledge is an awareness on the part of the person concerned indicating his state of mind. Reason to believe is another facet of the state of mind. Reason to believe is not the same thing as suspicion or doubt and mere seeing also cannot be equated to believing. Reason to believe is a higher level of state of mind.

Likewise, knowledge will be slightly on a higher plane than a reason to believe. A person can be supposed to know where there is a direct appeal to his senses and a person is presumed to have a reason to believe if he has sufficient cause to believe the same”.[32]

Hence, the circumstances and facts of each case are to be studied well for determining whether the accused had the required knowledge or reason to believe the stamps to be counterfeit.


[1] Indian Penal Code 1860, ch XII

[2] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 230

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 231

[4] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 232

[5] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 28

[6] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 28, explanation 1

[7] State of Uttar Pradesh v HM Ismail AIR 1960 SC 669

[8] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 28, explanation 2

[9] Velayyudhan Pillai v Emperor AIR 1937 Mad 711

[10] Re Bapu Yadav (1874) 11 Bom HCR 172

[11] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 230, illustration (d) & (e)

[12] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 233

[13] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 234

[14] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 235

[15] Zamir Hussain v Crown AIR 1950 Lah 97

[16] Khadim Hussain v Emperor AIR 1925 Lah 22

[17] King Emperor v Hari Maniram Sonar (1904) Cr LJ 960

[18] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 236

[19] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 237

[20] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 238

[21] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 239

[22] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 240

[23] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 241

[24] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 242

[25] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 243

[26] Kashi Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1950 All 732

[27] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 244

[28] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 245

[29] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 246-254

[30] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 255-263

[31] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 263A

[32] Joti Prashad v. State of Haryana 1993 Supp (2) SCC 497


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  • Komal says:

    This article made it so easy to understand the complete topic. Thanks to legal bites for publishing such kind of articles.