Proving Forgery in a Criminal Case: Lawyers Advice
Documents are vital for every business transaction. Documents along with legal compliances make a contractual agreement entered between the companies as legal. Legal due diligence is the process used to verify such documents. It is not always sure that every facts and term stipulated in the document is true. There may be some fraud activities in the documents. This article is all about forgery and the prerequisites for obtaining forgery.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the term ‘Forgery’ means an illegal copy of a document, painting or the crime of making such copies. Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines forgery as the making of false documents or electronic record to cause damage to the other. In the case of State v. Kuldeep Kapoor (Case No. 302174 of 2016), the Court held that a person cannot be convicted for forgery unless all the ingredient of section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are included in the act.
Conditions for considering an Act as a Forgery
A Court cannot simply consider that an accused has committed the offence of forgery. There are certain prerequisites for the act to be considered as forgery. It is described under section 463 to 489 of the Indian Penal Code. The conditions to consider an act as forgery are:-
False documents or electronic records:-
Transfer of property, execution of a will, securities of valuable property or contractual agreement entered utilizing false documents or electronic records are illegal and it is a criminal act in India. If any company makes fabricated or false documents to enter into terms with another company, such a company is said to have committed the act of forgery. For the same, there must be an intention to do so on behalf of the accused. The seals, signatures, mark for the execution of the document or electronic document should be original and not fabricated or copied one. Fabrication or copying of these leads to the offence of forgery.
Dishonestly cancelling or changing the term of the document without any legal authority:-
To change or cancel any document made through electronic media or by writing, the concerned authority only has the legal right to do so. Other than those authorized people are not bound to alter or cancel any document. If any company decides to cancel the document by gaining some unfair advantage or breach of contract and that company do not have any authority to do so, the company is said to have committed the offence of forgery. Similarly, no person is bound to alter or put the other company under compulsion dishonestly to sign, execute or to have the seals in the document. Nevertheless, for all these activities a clear intention by the accused should be there to do so.
Falsification of public documents or Court records:-
According to section 466 of the code, if anybody by claiming the wrong document as issued or notified by the public authority or Court of Law and makes someone else believe in the statement, such a person has committed the offence of forgery. In the case of Neki Ram v. State of Uttar Pradesh (Criminal Revision No. 1856 of 1987), the Court held that section 466 is not only applicable to Court documents or procedural documents of a Court but also those documents or certificates with claiming to be made by the public servant in his official capacity.
Harming the reputation of a respectable company:-
Harming the reputation of a particular person or company is both defamation and forgery. It is defamation when the harm is done through libel or slander. Injury to the reputation is considered as a forgery when any person or company by using false electronic pieces of evidence or documents decides or tries to do so. The punishment for such an offence is imprisonment up to 3 years along with fine.
Production or making of counterfeited seals and signatures:-
Seals or signatures are important for any business transaction or legal document. It is necessary for any purpose that the seal or signature must be original and not duplicate. If any company uses false seals or signatures intending to conduct forgery with another company, such a company has committed the act of forgery. The punishment for the concerned authority of the company for such an offence is imprisonment up to 7 years along with fines. The rule also applies to counterfeited documents and authenticated marks.
False property marks:-
Property marks are symbols or names which denotes that the property belongs to a particular company. If any company uses the property to establish falsely that such properties belong to them and their allied companies, the company has committed the offence of forgery. The company is not entitled to use the fake property marks to have a legal claim upon someone else’s property or movable items. The company will be liable for every wrong or dealings made upon such claims under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and Indian Penal Code, 1860. In the case of Dr Shireesh Gupte v. State of Uttarakhand and Others (Criminal Misc. Application No. 675 of 2012), there was a charge sheet submitted by the investigators which were implicated the offences under section 63 of the Copyright Act, section 479, 481 and 483 of the Indian Penal Code against the accused. The Court while delivering its judgement observed that civil remedies are available under chapter 11 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and it does not mean that there are no criminal proceedings under section 63 of the Indian Copyright Act.
Destruction of property marks:-
Property marks are the identities of a company. It is used for selling the property by a particular company to easily distinguish from other competitors. No company or group of companies has the legal right to tarnish the property mark of another company and its allied subsidiaries. If such an act causes injury to the company, then the company can file for the criminal case. In Virambhai S/O. of Hargovandas Patel v. State of Maharashtra (Criminal Application No. 619 of 2018), the facts of the case were that there was the loss of currency notes. The Court held that the currency notes had now lost its identity and the same is counterfeit and there is no question of registration of the case under section 489 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
A forgery is an act conducted by the companies to make an unfair advantage or tarnish the reputation of the other companies. Section 466 to 489 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with various kinds of forgery and the punishment for such conduct. Any conduct of forgery needs to have the intention at first. The intention or mens rea along with action or actus rea is a basic thing in criminal law. Without these, it is difficult to establish that the accused had committed the crime.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Muhammad Aslah