Offence of Forgery under Indian Penal Code

In Roman law, a maxim prevails lex cornelia de falsis, which means that a person who falsely writes, seals, publicly reads, or forges any will or other document or willfully and maliciously forges the document should be punished if a native of the country with deportation and a slave with death.

In Indian law, the making and using of forged documents is also punishable. Such offences are generally known as ‘offences relating to documents.’ In the Indian context, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under Chapter 18, provides for offences relating to documents and property marks.

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What Is Forgery?

Forgery is the act of falsely making, altering or copying any document with the intention to deceive. The object of forgery is to cheat or cause wrongful property distribution by means of a false document.

Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code defines forgery. It provides as,

If any person with the intention:

  1. To cause damage or injury to the public or any person, or
  2. To support any claim or title, or
  3. To cause any person to enter into any express or implied contract, or
  4. To commit fraud.

Makes any false document or any false electronic record or form a part of such document or electronic record, commits the offence of forgery.

Essentials of Forgery

The following are the essentials for the offence of forgery.

  1. There must be making of any false document (or electronic record).
  2. Such document (or electronic record) must be made with the intention:
    • (a) To cause damage or injury to the public or any person, or
    • (b) To support any claim or title, or
    • (c) To cause any person to enter into any contract (expressed or implied), or
    • (d) To commit fraud.

If the above essentials are fulfilled, the person is said to commit the offence of forgery.

Illustrations

1. The teacher showed the checked exam copies to the students. Prakash, who got 6 out of 20, alters 6 to 16 by adding 1 before 6. Here, Prakash has committed forgery as he aimed for the teacher to believe it to be 16 out of 20.

2. Sanjay signs his own name to a bill of exchange, aiming that it may be believed that another person of the same name drew the bill. Sanjay has committed forgery.

Punishment for Forgery

Whoever commits the offence of forgery under section 463 of the IPC is punishable under section 465 of the IPC. Such person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years or with a fine or both.

If a person dishonestly uses such forged document or electronic record even after having reason to believe that such document is not genuine, is punishable in the same manner as if he has made such a document.

Case Laws Related to Forgery

Ram Narayan Popali vs CBI, AIR 2003 SC 2478: In this case, the Supreme Court held that the essential ingredient of the offence of forgery is the making of a false document (either whole or any part of it) with the intention to cause the damage or injury to the public.

Devendra vs State of Uttar Pradesh, (2009) 7 SCC 495: Making a false document is a ‘sine qua non‘, that is, an essential condition for committing the offence of forgery.

Conclusion

As soon as the person makes the false document, i.e., section 464 of IPC, making a false document with the intention to deceive a person, such person commits the offence of forgery.

It can be said that the essential ingredient for committing the offence of forgery is making a false document along with the intention. Also, if a man signs his own name or makes a false document in the name of a fictitious person or in the name of the deceased person with the intention to cause injury to the public, he is said to commit the offence of forgery.

Ankita Soni
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