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The Offence of Forgery

My purpose of this research is to have a lucid understanding of the concept of ‘Forgery’ which has been defined under Section 463 of IPC. This article tends to provide the cases in which Section 463 can be attracted and situations under which it is not applied. As there were few articles having little information regarding the offence of forgery on the internet, so, my motive was to write a well researched and informative article on the said topic with the help of relevant case laws, illustrations and examples. This article will provide a comprehensive and general study of concept of the offence of forgery, its main ingredients and other sections related to it.

The offences relating to documents (known as ‘Forgery’) are explained under chapter 18 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section (463 to 477-A) deals with cases of forgery of documents or electronic record. In this article, I have firmly discussed about the meaning of forgery under Section 463, and its punishment. Further, I have analyzed and found that there are cases in which forgery is present in aggravated form (Section 466-469). For example: Forgery for the purpose of cheating (Section 468) or harming the reputation of other person (Section 469) etc. In last part of the article, Sections (472 to 477-A) are discussed with relevant case laws.

The Offence of Forgery
As per the ‘Section 463’ of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
‘Whoever makes any false document 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.’

Therefore, a person when he makes any false document or electronic record with the criminal intention to:
  1. Cause injury or damage to the other person or public
  2. Cause any person part with the property
  3. Enter into any express or implied contract
  4. Support any claim or title
  5. Commit or may commit any fraud then that person will be liable for the offence of forgery under Section 463 of IPC.

The word document denotes any matter expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures or marks, or by more than one of those means, intended to be used, or which may be used, as evidence of that matter.

Section 464: This Section of Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with cases in which the person is said to make a false document or false electronic record. These cases are as follows:
Firstly, when a person who dishonestly or fraudulently makes, signs, seals or execute a document and transmit any electronic record with the intention of causing it to be believed that such a document was made, signed, sealed or executed by the authority of person by whose authority he knows that it had been not made, signed, sealed or executed.

Secondly, when a person who without lawful authority acting in dishonest or fraudulent manner alters a document or an electronic record, either by himself or by any another person, in material part.

Thirdly, when a person acting in dishonest or fraudulent behaviour causes any person to sign, seal, execute or alter a document knowing that such a person because of his in capabilities like unsoundness, intoxication or deception does not understand the contents of the document or nature of alteration.

In such circumstances, a person is said to make a false document or an electronic record and therefore, he commits the offence of Forgery under Section 463 of IPC.

The Supreme Court in Sheila Sebastian v. R.J. Jawahraj & Another (2018) 7 SCC 581 talked about section 463 and section 464 of the IPC. It says that section 463 defines the offence of forgery while on the other hand section 464 substantiates the same by providing answer as to when a false document or an electronic record could be said to have been made for the purpose of committing the offence of forgery under section 463. However section 464 defines only one of the essential ingredients of forgery i.e., the making of false document. It was further said by the court in this case that charge of forgery cannot be levelled against a person who is not maker of false document in question.

The Supreme Court in T.N. Rugmini v. C. Achutta Menon AIR 1991 SC 983, held that making an application in another's name without any intention to defraud or causing harm to anyone does not amount to an offence of forgery under section 464 of IPC.

Illustrations
· A, without Z's authority, affixes Z's seal to a document purporting to be a conveyance of an estate from Z to A, with the intention of selling the estate to B and thereby of obtaining from B the purchase-money. A has committed forgery.

· A without B's authority writes a letter and signs it in B's name certifying to A's character, intending thereby to obtain employment under Z. A has committed forgery inasmuch as he intended to deceive Z by the forged certificate, and thereby to induce Z to enter into an express or implied contract for service.

In these cases, the person acted in dishonest or fraudulent manner in order to cause injury or damage to the other person by making and signing the false document, therefore he is liable for the offence of forgery under Section 463 of Indian Penal Code.


Essentials Elements of Forgery
The following are the essentials elements of the offence of forgery defined under section 463 of the IPC:
  1. The making of a false document or a part of it.
  2. Such making should be with dishonest or fraudulent intent:
    1. To cause damage or injury to:
      1. any person or
      2. public or
    2. To support any claim or title; or
    3. To cause any person to part with the property; or
    4. To cause any person to enter into an contract, whether implied or express; or
    5. To commit fraud or that fraud may be committed in the coming future.

Making of a false document
The first ingredient in order to make someone liable for the offence of forgery is making of a false document or electronic record. The person is said to make a false document is explained under section 464. In other words, we can say, Section 464 explains what amounts to making of a false document or electronic record. The document must be legally capable of affecting the fraud intended and it is not necessary that the document should be published or made in the name of an existing person.

The Supreme court in Mohd Ibrahim v. State of Bihar (2009) 8 SCC 751, observed that a person is said to have made false document if:
  1. He made or executed a document claiming to be somebody else or authorized by someone else; or
  2. He altered or tampered a document; or
  3. He obtains a document practicing deception or form a person who is not in control of his/her senses.

To Cause Damage or Injury to the any person or public

The 2nd essential is that some damage or injury must be intended to be caused by the false document to the public or to any individual. In the case of Sanjiv Ratanappa v. Emperor AIR 1932 Bom. 545, the court held 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. Therefore, if there is no damage or loss to any individual then the person will not be made liable under Section 463 of IPC.

To Support any claim or title
A person who has legal claim or title over a property can be made liable under section 463 if he counterfeits the documents in order to support it. For Example: ‘D’ said that my property will be transferred to ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ in equal share after his life time. ‘A’ acting in dishonest manner scratched the name of ‘B’ intending that whole property will be shared between himself and C. Here A has committed forgery and will be liable under section 463 of IPC.

To cause any person to part with property
When a person makes a false document with an intention to cause, any other person to part with his property, damage or injury, then it is immaterial that the property must be in existence at the time when the false document was made.

For example: If ‘A’ gives an order to ‘B’ to make Sofa cum Bed for him, but ‘C’ before the Sofa cum Bed is made writes a false letter purporting, but falsely, to be signed by ‘A’, authorizing ‘B’ to deliver the same to ‘D’ when made. Here ‘C’ will be guilty of an offence under this section by eating that false letter with intent to cause ‘B’ to part with the tea-set, when made.

Intent to commit fraud
There are cases in which a person can be made liable if he makes a false document with an intention to commit fraud with the other individual. In order to constitute fraud, an intention to deceive is required.

For Example: ‘B’ makes a painting and signs the name of a well known artist on that picture. He exposes the same picture for the sale in the market which was purchased by ‘C’. Here ‘B’ will be liable under the offence of forgery because he defrauds ‘C’ by giving out the impression that the picture was painted by renowned artist whereas the painting was made by him. Here, B could be made liable for the offence of forgery even if the picture was not purchased by anyone because the intent to deceive the public by exposing the picture in market itself amounts to forgery.

Punishment for Forgery
Punishment for the offence of forgery has been prescribed under Section 465 of IPC. According to this section- Whoever commits forgery shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years or with the fine or with both. The offence is Non-cognizable, Bailable, Triable by Magistrate of the first class and Non-compoundable.

Aggravated forms of Forgery
Sections 466 to 469 of IPC deal with the situations in which offence of forgery is present in aggravated form. For instance, the case of forgery of the record of a court, or of public register, forgery of a valuable security, will, etc. and forgery for the purpose of cheating and harming the reputation of another person, are the aggravated forms of forgery. However the punishment varies in each case.

Section 466:
It states that when a person forges a document or an electronic record, which is a record of proceedings of a Court of Justice, or register of birth, marriage, baptism (Christian religious rite) or burial or registration kept by a public servant, or certificate or document made by public servant in his official capacity, or authority to institute or dismiss claim or to grant judgment or a power of attorney, then such a person mill be liable under Section 466. It mostly applies to those cases in which the accused fraudulently forges a document or an electronic record so that it may appear that the same have been issued by a public office, for instance, forging a marriage certificate.

In the case of Naga Pre v. Emperor 1904 Cr LJ 1124, a person was held liable for the offence of forgery under section 466 when he fraudulently altered his original name and age in an educational certificate in order to get a job.

Section 467:
According to this section, whoever forges the document which purports to be a valuable security or a will, or an authority to adopt a son or authority to any person to create or transfer any valuable security or authority in order to receive the principal, interest or dividends on a valuable security or authority to receive or deliver money, movable property or valuable security or acquaintance or receipt acknowledging the payment of money, or acquaintance of receipt for any movable property or valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years with fine.

Section 467 talks about the offence which is an aggravated form of the offence described in the preceding section i.e. Section 466. A person could only be made guilty under this section when the forged document is one of those mentioned in this section.

In Kishan lal v. State AIR 1976 SC 1139, the person (accused) received the money from postman by representing himself as the payee, which in fact he was not, and signed the postal acknowledgement in the name of the original payee. It was held by the court that accused is liable for the offence under section 467 of the IPC.

Section 468:
A person is punished when he forges a document or an electronic record for the purpose of cheating. For the application of this section, it is not mandatory that the accused must have really cheated, what is relevant is to check the intention of the accused in committing forgery. Therefore, intention plays a crucial role in determining the offence under this section. Punishment under this section is imprisonment for 7 years which is cognizable, non-bailable and non compoundable.

State of Orissa v. Rabindra Nath Sahu (2002) CrLJ 2327 (Ori) is the case where the Orissa High court held that Section 468 does not require that the accused has committed the offence of cheating but the material fact for this section is that the accused must have committed forgery with the intent to use the forged document for the purpose of cheating. The accused can be made liable under Section 468 as well as for the offence of cheating, if he has used the forged document for the purpose of cheating.

In Nand Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar AIR 1992 SC 1939, the accused was held not guilty because of lack of evidence regarding knowledge and consent that the co-accused had forged the documents to obtain the LIC policies. The only evidence before the court was that premium amounts were credited to his account, which was not sufficient to prove his guilt under section 468.

Section 469:
It deals with the cases in which a person who forges a document or electronic record for the purpose of harming the reputation of another person. Such a person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years with fine. However, such an offence is bailable unlike section 468.

Section 470 & 471:
Section 470 defines which type of documents comes under category of forged documents and Section 471 fixes the liability of any person who uses the forged document as a genuine or legitimate one. But there is a condition to make someone liable under this section i.e. the document in question should be used by a person who has the knowledge or reason to believe that such a document is forged.

In Daniel Hailey Walcott v. State of Madras AIR 1968 Mad. 349, it was held by the Madras High court that using a forged passport as an authentic or genuine one in order to gain entry into India is punishable offence under section 471 of IPC.

Making of Counterfeit Seal, Plate etc to Commit Forgery
Section 472 to 476 deals with cases of forgery by means of making or creating counterfeit seals, plates or instruments, to use for creating the forged documents.

Section 472:
Any person who makes or counterfeits a seal, plate or any other instrument with the intent to commit forgery of valuable security, will, and other documents specified in Section 467 of the Code, possess such a seal, plate or any other instrument. In such a case, a person will punished for life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term up to 7 years with fine.

Section 473:
Whoever makes or counterfeits any seal, plate, etc with intention of committing forgery which would be punishable under any section of the same chapter expect Section 467 or has in his possession any such scale, plate, etc then he will be punished under this section. Punishment under this section is imprisonment of 7 years which is bailable offence.

Section 474:
A person will be punished under this section, if he possesses a document or an electronic record which is forged and uses the same, dishonestly or fraudulently, as genuine document. He shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years with fine.

Section 475:
A person who counterfeits any material, device for the purpose of authenticating any document which are described under section 467 of the same code then he will be liable under section 475.

Section 476:
A person who counterfeits any material, device for the purpose of authenticating any document which are not described under section 467 of the same code then he will be liable under section 476.

Section 475 and 476 are almost similar and the only difference is regarding the document i.e. if document is mentioned under section 467 then Section 475 is attracted otherwise section 476 will come into play. The punishment imposed under section 476 is less severe than section 475.

Section 477-A (Falsification of accounts)
Under this section, there are specifically two offences, namely: (i) defrauding, altering, destroying, mutilating or falsifying any book or accounts or an electronic record; and (ii) making or abetting the making of false entries in the same. There are some essential ingredients which need to be fulfilled in order make any person liable under this section.

These essential ingredients are as follows
  1. The persons committing such an offence should be, a clerk, officer, or servant, or acting in such capacity;
  2. He must willfully and with the intention to defraud:
    1. destroy, alter, mutilate or falsify any book, electronic record, paper, writing, valuable security; (a) which belongs to his employer or is in employer’s possession; or (b) has been received by either himself or on the behalf of his employer; or
    2. Makes or abets the making of any false entry in or omits or alters from or in any such book, electronic record, paper, writing, valuable security or account.

State of Orissa v. Bishnu Charan Muduli 1985 Cr LJ 1573 (Ori), the driver and cleaner of a bus who caused an accident, changed the number plate of that bus and also involved in forging the registration book to tally with new number plate. The Orissa high court found both of them guilty for the offence under section 477-A of IPC.

Conclusion
Keeping in view the above mentioned judgements pronounced by the different courts, it is clear that Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code punishes a person if he commits the offence of forgery. The offence of forgery is basically related to offences which are related to document. It says that if a person makes a false document with malafide intention in order to cause damage to public or a particular person then such a person (accused) will be punished with imprisonment up to 2 years along with fine. Section 465 deals with the punishment regarding the offence of forgery. As mentioned above, there are certain cases where forgery is present in aggravated form. Section 466 to 469 deals with such cases.

In the contemporary world, the offence of forgery is committed so often. There are many cases where a person or a group indulge in commission of such crime. For example: Person who entered into the territory of another country with some criminal intention through a forged passport or any other documents can be made liable under section 463 of the IPC. With penal provisions like Section 463, courts held many persons guilty in different cases related to it.

End notes/References:
  1. The Indian Penal Code, 2019 (Act 45 of 2019
  2. Prof. S.N. Mishra, Indian Penal Code (Central Law Publications, 22nd edn, Allahabad, 2020)
  3. PSA Pillai, Criminal Law (Lexis Nexis, 12th edn, Haryana, 2014)

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