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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Section 471 of the Indian Penal Code talks about using a forged document as genuine.
  • Whoever fraudulently or untruthfully uses a forged document (hardcopy or electronic) as genuine which he knows or has a ground to believe is forged will be punished in the same way as if he had forged the document
  • Section 463 to section 477A of the Indian Penal Code deal with the provisions for forgery.
  • The offense under section 471 is cognizable, bailable, and non-compoundable. It may be tried by a First Class Magistrate. If the forgery is of a promissory note of Central Government, it is cognizable.
  • There are only a few minor differences between each section from 463 to 474.
  • Almost all the offenses relating to forgery are triable by First Class Magistrate.

INTRODUCTION

This article focuses on highlighting what forgery is, its elements, what section 471 of IPC is, what are the general defences for forgery, what are the documents that can be forged and the differentiation between various sections of forgery along with a couple of case laws. Section 471 of the Indian Penal Code talks about using a forged document as genuine. It states that whoever fraudulently or untruthfully uses a forged document (hardcopy or electronic) as genuine which he knows or has a ground to believe is forged will be punished in the same way as if he had forged the document. Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code defines Forgery as whoever makes any fake document or incorrect electronic record or part of a document with an intent to cause damage or injury, to the public or any person, or to support any claim or title, or to cause any person to share with property, or to enter into any express or implied contract, or with a purpose to commit fraud or that fraud may be accomplished, commits forgery. Therefore, forgery can be termed as a means to accomplish an end fabricated to mislead someone into believing a lie or inaccuracy.

FORGERY

Section 463 to section 477A of the Indian Penal Code deal with the provisions for forgery. “whoever by making any false document or electronic record or part of a document or electronic record to cause damage or injury, to the public or 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.”

Elements of Forgery:

i. A person must make, alter or use a fake document.
ii. The writing must have legal significance.
iii. The writing must be untrue.
iv. There should be an intention to commit the act.

WHAT ARE THE DOCUMENTS THAT ARE COMMONLY FORGED

  • Identification documents. E.g. Aadhar Card, Driving License, etc
  • Cheques
  • Wills
  • Contracts
  • Patents
  • Drug prescriptions
  • Deeds
  • Certificates of Authentication

DEFENSES

There are a few general defenses to forgery. They are as follows:

  1. Lack of intent: In forgery, everything boils down to intent. So if there’s no intent the defendant cannot be found guilty.
  2. Lack of knowledge: If the defendant did not know the document being a fraud, it can be considered as a defense.
  3. Coercion: If the accused was forced to commit a forgery because of coercion, or because someone they loved was threatened, it can be considered as a defense.

USING A FORGED DOCUMENT AS GENUINE

Using as genuine a forged (document or electronic record) —whoever fraudulently or dishonestly uses as genuine any (document or electronic record) which he knows or has reason to believe to be a forged (document or electronic record), shall be punished in the same manner as if he had forged such (document or electronic record).

Using a forged document as genuine is a cognizable offense under IPC section 471. Elements of using a forged document as genuine are as follows:

  1. The document or electronic record is a forged one,
  2. The accused has used the forged document or electronic record as a genuine one,
  3. The accused knew or had a ground to believe that the said document or electronic record is a forged one,
  4. The accused used the said document or electronic record despite it.

The offense under section 471 is cognizable, bailable, and non-compoundable. It may be tried by a First Class Magistrate. If the forgery is of a promissory note of Central Government, it is cognizable.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OTHER SECTIONS DEALING WITH FORGERYAND SECTION 471 IPC

Section 464 of the Indian Penal Code states that a person is said to make a false document or electronic record when he or she has dishonestly or fraudulently made, signs, seals, a document, makes or transmits any electronic record or part of electronic record, affixes a signature on such a record, makes any mark denoting the execution of a document or the authenticity of the signature with having the intention of causing it to be believed as genuine.

Whereas Section 471 talks about when someone usesa forged document as a genuine document while knowing it to be a forged document. The punishment for it is the same as the punishment for forgery which is imprisonment of either description for 2 years or fine or both.

Section 464 A deals with whoever makes a false document or an electronic record.

Section 465 deals with the punishment for forgery which is imprisonment of either description which may extend to 2 years, fine, or both.

Section 466 deals with forgery of record of court or public register, the punishment for which is imprisonment of either description which may extend to a period of seven years,and fine.

Section 467 deals with forgery of a valuable security or a will, etc. The punishment consists of 10 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Section 468 deals with forgery to cheat the punishment for which is imprisonment up to 7 years and a fine.

Section 469 deals with whoever is said to commit forgery with an intent to harm the reputation of a person. The person who has committed such a forgery is entitled to imprisonment extending up to 3 years and is also liable to pay a fine.

A fake document or electronic record made partly or wholly by forgery is called a forged document or forged electronic record.

Section 472 deals with making or possessing counterfeit seals, etc. with an intent to commit forgeryare punishable under section 467. Punishment for this may extend up to seven years along with a fine. Whereas section 473 deals with the same offense as section 472.

It should be noted that section 474 which deals with an offense relating to the use of the forged document or electronic record to use it as genuine and the document is of the same description as under section 467 or 466 will be held liable under this section, has a few similarities with section 471. The only difference is that in section 471, the offense is relating to the use of the forged document as genuine, and 474 deals with documents described under section 466 or 467.

The offense under section 474 is bailable, non-compoundable, and cognizable similar to section 471.

While researching on the topic of forgery, I noticed that all the offenses relating to forgery are triable by First Class Magistrate.

CASE LAWS

Sheila Sebastian v/s R. Jawaharaj -

In the landmark case Sheila Sebastian v/s Jawaharaj, the complainant alleged that accused no. 1 with the assistance of an imposter impersonating as Mrs. Doris Victor created a PoA in his name as if he was her agent. It was also supposed that accused no. 1, with the help of the aforementioned PoA attempted to transfer the property of the complainant using a mortgage deed.

After hearing the matter, the Supreme Court ruled that the charge of forgery cannot be imposed on someone who hasn’t committed it. The Apex Court held that only when the components of section 463 are satisfied an individual cannot be held liable for forgery.

Ibrahim and Ors v/s State of Bihar and Anr.

In another landmark judgment, it was held that a person is said to have made a false document if:

i. If he has made or executed a document claiming to be someone else.
ii. Has altered or tampered with the document.
iii. Has practiced deception to obtain a certain document or has obtained a document from a person who is not in control of his senses.

CONCLUSION

As per section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, there must be an intention to commit is an offense. The intention is an essential element of the offense. To commit it, some damage or injury must be done to do so.

So it should be noted that a charge of forgery always comes down to one factor – intention. The burden of proof to prove the offense falls on the prosecution. It also needs to prove various other elements that have been stated above.

Section 471 deals with the use of forged documents as a genuine ones. If a person uses a document or an electronic record which he knows or has a reasonable knowledge of being a forged one, can be held liable under this section. But then again, the burden of proof falls upon the prosecution. However, according to Supreme Court’s recent judgment, a person has to commit the forgery to be held liable for it.


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