Forgery

Author: Yukti Gupta

FORGERY

  1. Introduction

Forgery is a materially false making or alteration of a written document or electronic record with the intent of defrauding someone. Forgery has been dealt in detail in Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred as IPC) from section 465 to 477A, which apart from defining and providing punishment to be inflicted on those who commits forgery, describes various aggravated offences which related to forgery.

  • Concept of Forgery (Section 463)[1]

Forgery in common law denotes a false making which includes very alteration of or addition to a true instrument or making maliciously any written instrument for the purpose of fraud and deceit.[2] Section 463, IPC states that ‘whoever dishonestly or fraudulently makes a false document or false electronic record in order that it may be used as genuine, commits forgery. It was observed in Dickins v. Gill[3] wherein possession and making of the fictitious stamp were involved, that ‘to make’ in itself involves conscious act on the part of the maker. Therefore, an offence of forgery cannot lie against a person who has not created or signed it. In Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh[4] it was held Y guilty for committing forgery by signing as B (deceased) on the National Saving Certificate which was endorsed as security by X and was transferred to B on his death. Another example could be that a doctor is guilty of committing forgery when he puts on a certificate certain seal or designation such as Chief Medical Officer, Civil Hospital, Lucknow, indicating that he was issuing the certificate in his capacity as C.M.O. or as a holder of a degree which in fact he does not possess.

  • Making of False document or false electronic record (S. 464)[5]

Section 464, IPC lays down that a false document or electronic record (forgery) can be made in the following ways-

  1. By making, signing, sealing or executing a document
  2. By alteration of a document or electronic record
  3. By causing a person, who is innocent, of the contents or nature of the alteration of a document or an electronic record, to sign it, or
  4. By affixing any electronic signature on any electronic record.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Md. Ibrahim and others v. State of Bihar and Anr[6]while dividing false documents into three categories observed that a person is said to have made a ‘false document’, if (i) he made or executed a document claiming to be someone else or authorized by someone else; or (ii) he altered or tampered a document; or (iii) he obtained a document by practicing deception, or from a person not in control of his senses. The Hon’ble Supreme Court while reiterating the same points in Sheila Sebastian vs. R. Jawaharaj and Ors.[7] observed that a charge of forgery cannot be imposed on a person who is not the maker of the same, the making of a document is different than causing it to be made. As Explanation 2 to Section 464 clarifies that, for constituting an offence Under Section 464 it is imperative that a false document is made and the Accused person is the maker of the same, otherwise the Accused person is not liable for the offence of forgery. It is the imposter who can be said to have made the false document by committing forgery.

Illustrations

  1. If a bill of exchange payable to A falls into the hands of B having the same name as the payee and B endorses it knowing that he is not the real person in whose favour it is drawn, he was guilty of forgery.
  2. When A advertised that a book on English Idioms by R.S Williams was available and would be despatched against money sent. Then A wrote a letter under the signature of R.S Williams to the postal authorities to pay money sent to R.S Williams to one Seshgiri Rao and got the money himself signing receipts as Seshagiri Rao. A was found guilty as both R.S Williams and Seshgiri Rao were fictitious persons.
  3. A obtained a cheque of Rs 1000/- from B and after adding a zero he presented it to the bank to encash it. In this situation, A committed forgery by adding a zero he had made a false document with an intention to claim more money from the bank.
  4. An obtained signature of B, his officer upon a false document by inserting the document in a heap of papers placed for signature before B. Here, A did not commit forgery as no deception was practiced on B to prevent him from knowing the nature of the document
  • Using a forged document or electronic record as genuine (S. 470 and S.471)[8]

Section 471, IPC makes punishable using fraudulently or dishonestly a forged document or electronic record defined under section 470, IPC as genuine. For an offence under this section, it is necessary that the document should be used by a person who had knowledge or reason or believe that the document is forged.

In Jibrial Diwan v. State of Maharashtra [9], it was held that an offence under section 471 requires some action resulting in a disadvantage which but for the deception, the person defrauded would have avoided.

In Dr. Vimla v. Delhi Administration[10], the Hon’ble Supreme Court explained that the expression ‘defraud’ involves two elements, namely, deceit and injury (other than economic loss) to the person deceived and; any harm caused to any person in body, mind. Reputation etc.

In a prominent case of Md. Ibrahim and others v. State of Bihar and Anr[11], the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that there are two possibilities that may arise when a person executes a document conveying a property describing it as his. First, the bonafide belief that the property actually belongs to him. The Second, dishonest or fraudulent claim by him even though he knows that it is not his property. But to fall under the first category of ‘false documents’, it is not sufficient that a document has been made or executed dishonestly or fraudulently. There is a further requirement that it should have been made with the intention of causing it to be believed that such a document was made or executed by, or by the authority of a person, by whom or by whose authority he knows that it was not made or executed. When a document is executed by a person claiming a property that is not his, he is not claiming that he is someone else nor is he claiming that he is authorized by someone else. Therefore, the execution of such a document (purporting to convey some property of which he is not the owner) is not the execution of a false document as defined under Section 464 of the Code. If what is executed is not a false document, there is no forgery. If there is no forgery, then neither Section 467 nor Section 471 of the Code are attracted.

In Galla Negeswara Rao v. State of A.P.[12], date of the birth certificate was produced by the accused alleged to have been issued by his school, for the alteration of his birth to get the benefit of a few years of service. The court held that the accused had knowledge that the document is forged and he tried to derive benefit by using a forged document with dishonest intention. It also pointed out that acting upon a document is immaterial for conviction under section 471 IPC.

  • Punishment for forgery

According to Section 465, to charge someone for the offence of ‘forgery’, the prosecution has to prove that the accused not only made a false document as per section 464 IPC but created it with one of the intents mentioned in Section 463 IPC. The maximum imprisonment of either description i.e. Simple or Rigorous that can be awarded to the accused is of two years coupled with or without fine.  The offence is non-cognizable, bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Judicial Magistrate Class I, as summons case under Section 2(w), CrPC, 1973, wherein no charges are required to be framed.

  • Offences relating to forgery
    • Forgery of record of court or of the public register (S. 466)

Section 466 deals with certain specific kind of documents or electronic records are forged by a person with a view to making it look like it was duly issued by a public officer. To bring home an offence under this section the prosecution has to prove firstly that the offence is punishable under 465, IPC. and after that has to prove that the document or electronic record forged purports to any of the kinds mentioned in Section 466, IPC, namely-  

  1. Record or proceedings of the court of justice
  2. Register of birth, baptism, marriage or burial or a register kept by a public servant
  3. Certificate or document purported to be made by a public servant in his official capacity
  4. An authority to institute or defend a suit or to take any proceeding therein or to confess Judgment
  5. A power of attorney.

Nature of offence- Non-cognizable, Non-bailable.

Punishment- A maximum corporeal punishment (simple or rigorous) of seven years coupled with a fine.

In the case of Surinder Kaur v. State of Haryana[13], the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Doctor who forged the record of Community Health Centre to save the accused from a criminal case by issuing an admission slip which was not in a routine and manipulated the record only to help the accused. 

  • Forgery of valuable security, will etc (S. 467)

Section 467 prescribes an aggravated form of the offence of forgery dealing with a certain set of valuable documents. Under this section, along with the proof that forgery was committed as per Section 465 IPC, the prosecution has to prove that the document forged is one of the kinds mentioned in Section 467, IPC namely-

  1. A valuable security
  2. A Will
  3. An authority to adopt a son
  4. Document purports to give authority to any person:
  5. To make or transfer any valuable security
  6. to receive the principal, interest or dividends thereon
  7. to receive or deliver any money, movable property, or valuable security
  8. Document purports to an acquittance or receipt:
  9. For acknowledging the payment of money, or
  10. For the delivery of any movable property or valuable security

Nature of offence- Non- Cognizable, non-bailable.

Punishment – The accused if proven guilty shall be punished with imprisonment for life or a maximum corporeal punishment (Simple or rigorous) of ten years along with fine.

In the case of Krishan Lal v. State of Delhi[14], an accused who dishonestly and fraudulently signed as M at two places on a money order who was not M but K, and received the amount of the money order from the Postman, was found guilty of the offence under s.467 IPC.

  • Forgery for cheating (S. 468)

As per Section 468, IPC, the prosecution has to prove that the document or electronic record has been forged as contemplated in S.463 and along with that thee accused has forged them with an intention to use them for the purpose of cheating. The court in B.L. Khatri v. State of Bihar[15] had observed that the offender need not actually commit the offence of cheating, what material is his intention or purpose in committing forgery.

Nature of offence- Cognizable, non-bailable.

Punishment- Maximum imprisonment for a period of 7 years along with fine. But it may be found that under section 29(2) of CrPC that a Judicial Magistrate of class I can impose a sentence of imprisonment for a maximum of three years only.

In Chandra Mohan Choudhary v. State[16]the court held the conviction under section 468 to be proper when the accused person who was cashier and customer of a bank, had entered into a conspiracy to overdraw money from the bank and thus, had caused losses to the bank. The evidence established that both were involved in defrauding the bank and the court observed that the accused cashier had caused wrongful loss to the bank by using his position wrongfully used his position, in order to obtain a pecuniary advantage not only to the co-accused customer but also to himself. 

  • Forgery to harm reputation (S. 469)

According to Section 469 of IPC, a person who forges a document or electronic record with the intention of causing harm to the reputation of another commits an offence under this section as well as under section 500 (defamation) The expression ‘harm’ connotes hurt, injury, damage, moral wrong or evil.

Nature of offence- Cognizable, bailable.

Punishment- Maximum imprisonment for a period of three years along with the fine.

In M/S Spentex Industries Ltd. & Anr. Vs Pulak Chowdhary[17], the Hon’ble Delhi District Court had decreed restraining the defendant from making false and defamatory statements, whether written or oral

against the petitioner who had filed for a compulsory and prohibitory injunction along with the recovery of Rs. 50,00,000/ as damages for loss of reputation and business due to defamatory emails sent by the defendant to the International Finance Corporation, World Bank, President of Republic of Uzbekistan, and UZEREPORT (a news website portal and publisher of monthly news reports).

  • Making or possession of counterfeit seal to commit forgery of valuable (S. 472)

As per Section 472 IPC, the prosecution has to prove that the accused made or counterfeited any seal, plate or another instrument for making an impression with an intention to use such seal, etc. for the purpose of committing any forgery punishable under Section 467 IPC and such seal, etc. was in his conspicuous possession and that he knew it to be counterfeit.

Nature of offence- cognizable, bailable.

Punishment- Maximum imprisonment for a period of seven years or imprisonment of life along with fine.

  • Possession of Counterfeit seal in general (S. 473)

Section 473 IPC is almost similar to section 472 IPC and the only point of difference is that under this section counterfeiting of any seal, plate or another instrument for making an impression, with the intention of committing forgery which would be punishable under any other section than Section 467 IPC, has been made punishable but not of so serious nature as to be punishable under Section 467 IPC. It is to be noted that the counterfeiting of a seal implies an imitation of a seal, it may not be an exact imitation but it must correspond to the original so as to impress upon a person of common intelligence to believe it to be true.

Nature of offence- cognizable, bailable.

Punishment- Maximum imprisonment for a period of seven years along with fine.

In Emperor vs Krishthappa khandappa[18], it was held that the possession of a counterfeit stamp which is intended to be used for imprinting letters upon trees in a reserved forest as to cause it to appear that those trees have been passed by a Forest Official for removal from the forest, is an offence under Section 473, IPC.

  • Criminal Possession of forged document (S. 474)

According to Section 474, the prosecution has to prove that the accused has committed forgery of documents or electronic records which were in his exclusive and conscious possession, which he knew to be a forged document and had full intention to use them as genuine, dishonestly or fraudulently. The documents or electronic records must be one of the descriptions mentioned in Section 466 or 467, IPC.

It is pertinent to note that possession implies control and to be criminal it must be exclusive.

Nature of Offence- Cognizable, bailable and if the documents pertaining to section 467, IPC, then the offence will be Non-cognizable.

Punishment- Maximum imprisonment of seven years and fine while imprisonment for life may be given if the documents pertained to section 467, IPC.

In Gajjan Singh v. State of M.P.[19], an owner of a truck was issued a permit at Indore for plying his truck between Indore and outstations for a period of one month (1-07-1960 to 31-07-1960). When the truck was checked at Nasik on 19-08-1960 while it was on its return journey to Indore, it was found that the number of the month in the dates in the permit had been altered from 7 to 8 resulting in prosecution of both the owner and driver. When the matter came before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it was held that the accused owner had a forged permit and had the intention of using it whenever occasion demanded, therefore, he was guilty of the offence under Section 474, IPC from the moment from which the forged permit was in his possession.

  • Preparation for authenticating documents in section 467, IPC (Section 475)

This section makes a mere preparation that may be necessary for forging a document, as specified in Section 467, IPC, punishable as an offence. A document is authenticated by affixing the signature or seal of the executant and when an accused forges a person’s signature or mark used in lieu of a signature, by engraving it on a plate, or other substance, or forging it on a paper in his possession so that it may be used for the purpose of authenticating a forged document, he shall be held liable under this section.

Nature of offence- Non- cognizable, bailable.

Punishment- Maximum corporeal imprisonment for a term of seven years or imprisonment for life along with fine.

  • Authenticating documents in general (S. 476)

An offence under section 476 has similar ingredients as are given under section 475, IPC. The only difference is that the document or electronic record in respect of which the offence is committed under this section is any document other than any document described under section 467, IPC. 

Nature of offence- Non- cognizable, non-bailable.

Punishment- Maximum corporeal imprisonment for a term of seven years along with fine.

  • Fraudulent cancellation, destruction, etc. of will, the authority to adopt or valuable security (Section 477)

Under Section 477, IPC, the prosecution has to prove that the accused had canceled, destroyed, defaced or secreted or had attempted to do so, any document which must be a Will, an authority to adopt a son or valuable security and such mischief was done fraudulently with an intent to cause damage or injury to the public or any person.

Nature of offence- Non- cognizable, non-bailable.

Punishment- Maximum corporeal imprisonment for a term of seven years or imprisonment for life along with fine.

In Moosa v. State of Kerala [20], it was held that cancellation or tampering with such account books which contained entries showing that certain amounts have been received from customers as sales tax which would be an acknowledgment by the dealer of his liability to turn over those amounts to the Sales Tax Department, shall be termed as valuable security and thus liable under section 477, IPC.

  • Falsification of accounts (Section 477 A)

Section 477A, IPC deals with two offences namely, falsification of accounts and making or abetting the making of false entry. To bring home an offence under this section, the prosecution has to establish that-

  1. the accused was a clerk, an officer, servant;
  2. while acting in such capacity he destroyed, altered, mutilated or falsified any book, electronic record, paper, writing, valuable security or account;
  3. such books and accounts belonged to or was in possession of his employer or had been received by him on behalf of his employer;
  4. the accused did so willfully and with an intent to defraud.

Nature of offence- Non- cognizable, bailable.

Punishment- Maximum corporeal imprisonment for a period of seven years or with fine or both.

In Sukhamoy Maitra[21], the accused was held guilty for a fraudulent falsification of accounts as he falsified a measurement book of repairs to the building and submitted a corresponding bill with the intent that the bill might be passed without the contractor’s actual measurements.

In Harman Singh v. Delhi Administration[22], the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that ‘Wilfully’ as used in section 477A, IPC means intentionally or deliberately. But from the mere fact that certain entries were made wilfully by an accused, it does not necessarily follow that he did so with the intent to defraud within the meaning of section 477A, IPC.

  • Conclusion

After analyzing various provisions dealing with Forgery, it can be concluded that impersonation, altering the documents by causing interlineations and obliterations and receiving the documents by exercising deception are three main elements to satisfy that a person has made a false document or electronic record. Apart from this, dishonest or fraudulent intent to cause damage or injury is the sine qua non for the offence of forgery. More often than not, it is incumbent upon the prosecution to prove the intention of caused beyond a reasonable doubt.


[1] K D Gaur, ‘TEXTBOOK ON INDIAN PENAL CODE’, LexisNexis (2019,6th edn.)

[2] East, A Treatise of Plea of the Crown, (1803), Vol II, pp. 852-857.

[3] (1896) 2 QB 310

[4] AIR 1954 SC 322

[5] Prof. S.N. Mishra, ‘Indian Penal Code as amended by criminal law amendment act, 2013’,Central Law Publication, Allahabad, (2014, 19TH edn.)

[6] MANU/SC/1604/2009

[7] MANU/SC/0542/2018

[8] Justice K T Thomas and M A Rashid, ‘The Indian Penal Code’, Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Lexis Nexis, (Vol.2, 2016 33rd edn.)

[9] 1997 Cri. L.J 4070 (SC)

[10] MANU/SC/0163/1962

[11] MANU/SC/1604/2009

[12] 1992 Cri. L.J. 2601 (A.P)

[13] 2014 (4) RCR (Criminal) 819: 2014 (10) SCALE 716

[14] AIR 1976 SC 1139

[15] (1986) 29 BLJR 9

[16] 2008 CrLJ (NOC) 763 (MP)

[17] CS NO. 219/18, In the court of Sh. Tarun Yogesh (ADJ), Dwarka Courts.

[18] 26 CrLJ 1014 (Bom)

[19] AIR 1965 SC 1921

[20] AIR 1963 Ker 68

[21] (1937) 10 ILR Pat 688.

[22] AIR 1976 SC 2140

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