Supreme Court Ruling Redefines Prosecution for Cheating under Section 420

The Supreme Court has decreed that when prosecuting an individual for the crime of cheating under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, it is imperative to determine whether the deceptive act of cheating included inducing the complainant to relinquish any property. The Bench of  Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, overturning the consistent decisions of both the High Court and the Trial Court, underscored that merely engaging in a deceitful act is inadequate to establish the offense of cheating. It is essential to illustrate that the deceitful act dishonestly prompted the surrender of property or a valuable security, leading to subsequent loss or damage.

The Court quashed a criminal case filed by a husband against his wife and relatives, asserting that the wife’s use of her husband’s signature to obtain a passport for their minor child did not amount to cheating and forgery. The Court highlighted the absence of dishonest intention on the part of the wife and the lack of loss or damage suffered by the husband, as the wife acted on the husband’s instructions.

The factual background involved a husband working in London who abandoned his wife there. The wife, residing with relatives, later sought a passport for her child in compliance with her husband’s instructions. The husband filed a complaint, leading to charges under Sections 420, 468, and 471 of the IPC. The trial court’s rejection of the discharge application, subsequent investigation, and the High Court’s dismissal of the revision led to the appeal before the Supreme Court.

The central issue was whether the wife’s act of forging her husband’s signature to obtain a passport for their minor child constituted the offenses of cheating and forgery under the IPC. The Court emphasized that for Section 420 IPC to apply, it is essential not only to prove cheating but also to establish that cheating induced the delivery of property, resulting in loss or destruction.

The Court concluded that the wife’s act did not amount to cheating under Section 420 IPC, as there was no deceitful act causing loss or damage to the husband. It further noted that forgery requires a false document prepared with dishonest intent, which was not established against the appellants. Additionally, the appellants were discharged from the offense under Section 12(b) of the Passports Act, 1967.

In summary, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgments of the High Court and the Trial Magistrate, and quashed the criminal case against the appellants. The husband was directed to pay a cost of Rs. 1,00,000/-, and the FIR lodged against the appellants was annulled.

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About the Author: Ashish Sinha

-Ashish Kumar Sinha -Editor Legally Speaking -Ram Nath Goenka awardee - 14 Years of Experience in Media - Covering Courts Since 2008