The following judgement deals with Section 489-A of IPC which criminalises the act of counterfeiting currency notes or bank notes. The question was whether the word currency notes or bank notes means and includes only Indian currency notes or it includes currency notes of foreign countries as well.
1. The respondents had forged and counterfeited 2000 American dollar notes of 20-dollar denomination and two of the defendants were alleged to have 148 of the forged notes in their possession.
2. These two respondents were well aware that the currency in their possession is forged and had the intention of using these forged currency notes as genuine.
3. The respondents contended before the Sessions Court that they cannot be charged under section 489A and 489C of the IPC as it only applies to counterfeiting of ‘Indian' currency notes or bank notes and does not apply to American dollars.
4. The Sessions Court upheld their contention and further the High Court also confirmed the same and the petition was discharged.
5. Petitioner filed an appeal under Article 134(1)(C) before the Supreme Court.
· Section 489A of IPC: counterfeiting currency-notes or bank-notes.
"Whoever counterfeits, or knowingly performs any part of the process of counterfeiting, any currency-note or bank-note, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
· Section 489B of IPC: Using as genuine, forged or counterfeit currency-notes or bank-notes.
"Whoever sells to, or buys or receives from, any other person, or otherwise traffics in or uses as genuine, any forged or counterfeit currency-note or bank-note, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be forged or counterfeit, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
· Section 489C of IPC: Possession of forged or counterfeit currency-notes or bank-notes.
"Whoever has in his possession any forged or counterfeit currency-note or bank-note, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be forged or counterfeit and intending to use the same as genuine or that it may be used as genuine, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both."
The question of law raised before the Supreme Court was whether counterfeiting of ‘currency-note or bank-note' as stated under section 498A and 498C includes within its purview American dollars also or it applies only to Indian currency-notes or bank-notes.
1. The court held that an analysis of the aforesaid provisions reveals that their application is not restricted to Indian currency notes only and it is applicable to currency notes of all other sovereign powers.
2. If the intention of the legislature was to extend the provisions only to ‘Indian' currency notes, the word ‘Indian' would have been stated in the provisions instead of the word ‘any'.
3. The court also observed that while interpreting any provision, the court has to express the intention of the legislature who drafted the legislation.
4. The court does not have the power to re-write or reframe the legislation.
5. The expression ‘currency note' is wide enough to include currency note of other countries as well and substituting it for ‘Indian currency note' will cut down the scope of the provision and beat the purpose/objective of the legislature.
6. The expression ‘bank note' includes money issued under the authority of any sovereign power and will also include Dollar note within its purview which is issued by the Government of America.
7. The court also observed that if the said provision is applied only to Indian currency notes or bank notes it would mean that counterfeiting of currency notes of other countries is not an offence under the Indian law.
8. The Supreme Court therefore reversed and set aside the judgement given by the High Court of Kerala.
The Supreme Court in this case interpreted the provisions in their strict sense as there was no ambiguity or absurdity in the sections under question. If the intention of the law maker or the legislature was to restrict the meaning of the provision to include within its scope only Indian currency note or bank note then the legislature would have specified that with reasonable clarity. If the court interprets the provision to extend it only to Indian notes then it would be re-writing the law. The word 'Indian' was not prefixed to ‘currency-note' or 'bank-note' and applying the provision to only Indian currency note or bank note would defeat the purpose of law.