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Forgery, which is an offence under the Indian Penal Code 1860 is defined in section 463. The very basis of the offence of forgery is the making of false documents with the criminal intention to cause damage to any person. The making of a false document by itself is not punishable in Indian penal code (hereinafter referred to as IPC) under the provision of chapter XVIII (dealing with the offence related to documents).
Forgery can thus be described as merely the means to achieve an end and the end is deception.
According to Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, “Whoever makes any false documents or false electronic record or part of a document or electronic record, with 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 intent to commit fraud or that fraud may be committed, commits forgery.”
The elements of forgery under Section 463 are:
- The document or electronic record or the part of it must be false in fact;
- It must have been made dishonestly or fraudulently within the meaning of the words used in Section 464, IPC; and
- The making of a false document or electronic record should be with intent to:
- Cause danger or injury to: (i) the public, or (ii) to any person; or
- Support any claim or title; or
- Cause any person to part with property; or
- Enter into any express or implied contract; or
- Commit fraud or that fraud may be committed.
The term ‘fraud’ in Section 463 implies an infringement of someone’s legal right though not necessarily connected with deprivation of property. Intent to defraud implies (a) an intention to deceive and (b) such deception involving the causing of legal injury. Unless there is an element of fraud, the making of a false document would not amount to a forgery.
It should be noted that the intention to cause injury is not an essential ingredient of the offence of forgery. As per Section 463, intention to cause damage or injury to the public or person is only one of the five situations. The other situations being: (i) to support any claim or title (ii) cause any person to part with property; (iii) enter into any implied or express contract; or (iv) with intent to commit fraud. The first component, namely, intention to cause damage is intent complete in itself.
Legal provisions regarding Forgery for purpose of cheating under section 468 IPC
Forgery for purpose of cheating
“Whoever commits forgery, intending that the document or electronic record forged shall be used for the purpose of cheating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”
This section refers to a special case of forgery in which the document is made subservient to cheating which is the main purpose of the offender. The main difference between cheating and forgery is that in cheating the deception is oral, whereas in forgery it is in writing.
Ever since the time of the invention of writing, the offence of forgery was also in existence. In Roman law, it was enacted by the Lex Cornelia de falsies, that a person who falsely writes, seals, public reads, or foists in forged will or other document or makes cuts, moulds, a spurious seal willfully and maliciously should be punished –if a freeman with deportation, and if a slave, with death. Removal of inscriptions of tombs was also severely punished in Rome.
Under Common Law
In English common law, Blackstone refers to such offences, especially the forging of the seals of state, which was treated as one form of treason. In modern English Common Law: “forgery is the making a false document with intent to deceive” However, with the promulgation of the Forgery Act 1913, forgery became a statutorily defined offence.
Section 1(10) of the Act defines forgery as ‘making a false document in order that it may be used as genuine’. It defines the basic concept, but offences are created by other sections which impose penalties ranging from two years, imprisonment to life, depending on the document forged and the intent with which it was forged
The intention of the Forger
Section 468 applies only to the cases where forgery is for the purpose of cheating. Forgery has been described before as involving the presence of one or other of the two elements of dishonesty or fraud. As fraud when connected with the delivery of property is dishonesty, and as cheating is an offence against property, it follows that this offence has for its object the dishonest acquisition of property.
Forgery is then a means to an end, that end being the wrongful acquisition or retention of property. This must be the intention of the forger, thoughts not necessary that he should use the document himself for the purpose of cheating or that he should cheat at all.
He must, however, intend it to be used for cheating, which makes him, at last, the abettor of the cheat. So where a school-master forget a school attendance register for the purpose of obtaining a government grant, he was held to be punishable under this section1Thias section will not apply when the cheating is complete, and the subsequent forgery is only intended to cover the offence.
The prosecution has to establish
- That the accused committed forgery
- That he did so with an intention that the document forged shall be used for the purpose of the cheating
The object of section 468 IPC was to find out as to whether the accused deceived someone by making false documents. If the prosecution were to establish forging of the documents and intending to use such forged documents for the purpose of cheating, then only the accused is liable for being convicted.
Prosecution is required to prove that:
- The disputed document or electronic record is forged document
- The accused forged the documents (vide Section 465)
- He did so intending that the document or electronic record forged shall be used for the purpose of cheating (vide Section 417).
To secure a conviction under Section 468 IPC, a heavy burden lies on the prosecution to prove the ingredients of section 463.
Important Case Laws
- State of Orissa v Rabindra Nath Sahu (2002) CrLJ 2327 (Ori), 93 (2002) CLT 571
The section does not require that the accused should commit the offence of cheating, what is material for the section is committing forgery with the intent to use the forged document for the purpose of cheating. However, if the accused has used the forged document for the purpose of cheating, he becomes liable to Section 468 as well as for committing the offence of cheating.
- Nand Kumar Singh v State of Bihar AIR 1992SC 1939
The accused was acquitted because there was no evidence that it was with his knowledge and content that the co-accused had forged the documents which reacted to obtaining of LIC policies. The only evidence was that premium amounts were credited to his account, which by itself was not sufficient to prove his guilt.
- Anisette Lobo v. State AIR 1994 SC 1613
A-1 was a bank employee, who took a blank draft on which A-5 had forged the signature of their agent A-3, opened a new account in the name of a factious person and enchased the cheques. In such a context, the accused were held to be rightly convicted for offences Under section 467,468 and 120B, IPC.
- PSA Pillai’s, Criminal Law, 13th Edition KI Vibhute
- R.A Nelson, Indian Penal Code, 11th Edition
- Dr. Hari Singh Gour, Indian Penal Code, 14th Edition