Cheating is dealt with in sections 415 to 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In most property crimes, the accused merely receives possession of the item in question. However, in case of cheating, he obtains both possession and the property associated with it.
Note: In cheating, the person does not get the ownership. For example, if a person obtains a car by cheating, that car comes into his possession, but still, that car is legally owned by someone else on the papers as ownership is a legal concept.
Definition of Cheating in IPC
Section 415 IPC states that:
- If any person by deceiving another person, fraudulently or dishonestly convinces that person to deliver or give consent to the retention of any property.
- Intentionally induces that person to do or omit something from doing which he would have done in the normal circumstances.
- If that act or omission is likely to cause damage or harm to that person’s body, mind, reputation, or property, shall be punished and will come under the offence of “cheating”.
Note: Dishonestly hiding a fact will also come under the offence of “cheating”.
Illustrations of Cheating
1. A intentionally deceives Z by falsely claiming to be in the civil service and dishonestly encourages Z to give certain items on credit for which he never intended to pay. A commits the offence of cheating.
2. By placing a counterfeit mark on an item, A deceives Z into believing that the item was created by a well-known manufacturer and thereby defrauds Z into purchasing and paying for the item. A commits the offence of cheating.
3. X purposefully deceives Y by pledging certain items with him and telling him that the items are diamonds. But he knows these are not diamonds. Therefore, he dishonestly encourages Z to lend money. A commits the offence of cheating.
4. P deceives X by taking a loan and making him believe that he will repay the loan that P never intended to repay and therefore deceives X into lending him money. A is a cheater.
5. A deceives Z into believing that A has fulfilled his portion of a deal with Z, which he has not, and thereby defrauds Z into paying money. A is a cheater.
Main Ingredients of Cheating
Following are the main components of cheating:
- Deceiving any person.
- The act of deceiving was done purposefully or intentionally.
- The inducement should be false or made with a fraudulent intention.
- The person who was deceived should be convinced to deliver goods or perform an action (that is, deliver the goods).
Cheating by Personation
A person is said to “cheat by personation” if he cheats by claiming to be someone else, or by knowingly replacing one person for another, or by falsely representing him to be some other person.
Note: The offence will be committed whether the person personated is a real or imaginary person.
Illustration of Cheating by Personation
1. A deceives by pretending to be a wealthy banker by the same name. This is how A cheats by personation.
2. A deceives by pretending to be a person B who has already died. Here, A cheats by personation.
Punishment for Cheating Under IPC
Punishment for cheating is defined under sections 417 to 420 of IPC, depending upon the case. Let’s study each section one by one:
Section 417 IPC – Punishment for Cheating
As per section 417 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever commits an offence of cheating is liable for imprisonment of either description, which may extend to one year, or fine, or both.
Section 418 IPC – Cheating With the Knowledge That the Person Whose Interest Has to Be Protected Incurs Losses
Suppose a person cheats another even after knowing that his act will cause wrongful loss to the person whose interest was supposed to be protected either by law or legal contract. Such a person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term up to three years, or with fine, or both.
Section 419 IPC – Punishment for Cheating by Personation
As per section 419 of the Indian Penal Code, if a person cheats another by personation, the person committing the offence shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of up to three years or a fine, or both.
Section 420 IPC – Cheating and Dishonestly Inducing Delivery of Property
- If any person cheats and thus dishonestly encourages the deceived person to deliver any property to any person, or
- To make, alter, or destroy the whole or any part of valuable security, or anything that is signed or sealed and is capable of being converted into a valuable security;
- Such a person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to seven years and fine.
Case Laws Related to Cheating
Ishwarlal Girdharilal vs the State of Maharashtra (1969)
The court stated that the term “property” as used in section 420 of the IPC does not necessarily refer to only those properties with monetary or market value. It also comprises features that are not monetary.
Suppose a property does not have a monetary value for the person in possession of it, but after being cheated by another person, it becomes a property with a monetary value for the person who obtains it through cheating. In that case, it can be considered as an offence of cheating under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code.
Sushil Kumar Datta vs State (1985)
The accused pretended to be a scheduled caste candidate and took the Indian Administrative Service examination. Due to his false claim of being a scheduled caste, he was assigned that position.
The court stated that the accused was liable for cheating by personating under section 416 of the IPC as he did not belong to a scheduled caste and falsely represented himself as one and that his conviction for cheating was justified under that section.
Cheating is defined as deceiving another person into doing or not doing something under the Indian Penal Code. The intent of the accused individual is important and is taken into account while determining his liability. The two fundamental components that must be addressed to prove the offence of cheating are deception and inducement.