Cheating under Indian Legal System

                                         By Pragati Verma            


The article enlightens the act of cheating in legal perspective.  It is regarded as crime under law and people frequently get expose to this immoral act or other wrongs related to this. Numerous cases are being reported daily of this dishonest act. The wicked section of society shows an immense inclination towards this creating dishonesty and chaos into the society. The article tends to explore the legal strands of this heinous crime.  It will include the essentials, laws and remedies related to the subject to provide a legal frame of mind. It appeals to be more cautious and vigilant against the misdeed.


To be common and more communicable cheating is termed as dishonest act performed intentionally in order to gain personal profit or benefit. It is a punishable crime in the eye of law. Law expounds the action as deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly in performing a task which one would not perform ordinarily unless deceived.  As per  section 415 of IPC ( Indian Penal Code) “Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any proper­ty to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to “cheat” “[1] which illustrates that the dishonest concealment of facts in order to deceive someone commits the crime of cheating. For example: A dishonestly pretends to be the owner of property to B. B pays the payment. A cheats. The wrongful act includes certain activities such as deceiving to deliver any property, or to alter or destroy any part or whole of a valuable security or anything considered as important and valuable. It is actionable under law and certain provisions have been set up to cover this unethical and unlawful activity.


To prove the crime of cheating in the court of law, it is necessary to manifest the requisites listed by the law. They include

1. Acting dishonestly

     Section 24 of Indian Penal Code well explains the term’ dishonestly’ as “Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing “dishonestly”[2] meaning using of unfair means for own profit over the other person.

2. Property

Property covers a wider scope.  It not includes only money but also anything which is of some value and can be measured in the terms of money. One must have complete ownership over the desired property legally. He should have the full right to enjoy the possession of land and property.

3. Fraudulently

Section 25 of Indian Penal Code terms fraudulently as “person is said to do a thing fraudulently if he does that thing with intent to defraud but not otherwise”[3].  This means deception especially the criminal deception.  Betraying someone to make him to do or not to do something for the sake of one’s own profit.

4. Mens Rea

Mens Read means the presence of intention to commit a crime. It is of major importance to acknowledge whether during the time of execution of crime the presence of mens rea was or not. It is of utmost important to refer the mental state of mind of the offender to prove him guilty and to assure that he has actively taken part in the abetment of crime which resulted into loss to one person.

5. The accused must deceive any person

 It can be fraudulently or dishonestly making a person to deliver any property or to perform or to omit any action with his consent which he would not do if not deceived. It can be expressed in words or shown throw conduct. It is making someone to believe something which is not true.

6. Concealment of Facts

There must be the dishonest concealment of facts by the accused. The concealment may not be illegal. If the accused has no legal duty to speak although he remains silent would be dealt as cheating or hiding the true facts. For example: A purchases a horse From B and A does not reveals the fact that the horse is of unsound mind. It will be regarded as cheating rendering the contract void.

Laws related to cheating

Section 415- 420 of Indian penal code covers the sphere of cheating.

Section 416

 ‘Cheating by Personation’  – “A person is said to “cheat by personation” if he cheats by pretending to be some other person, or by knowingly substituting one person for another, or representing that he or any other person is a person other than he or such other person really is”[4]. Explaining the offense is said to be committed by a person if he pretends to be some person or makes any other person to be some person which he is not. Further the person personated may be a real or an imaginary person. It must be knowingly done by the accused. In a leading case the Madras High Court held that a person whom makes another person to collect the hall ticket of university exam and made him to wrote the exam on behalf of him, made former liable for cheating under section 416 of IPC[5].

Section 417

This section includes punishment for cheating. The punishment imposed an imprisonment of six months or fine or both. Measure of the crime committed decides the ratio of imprisonment and fine. In less grave acts only fine will be imposed but if the act done is so grave that merely fine or imprisonment won’t compensate then it could be increased to seven years.

Section 418

 Cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect.—Whoever cheats with the knowledge that he is likely thereby to cause wrongful loss to a person whose interest in the transaction to which the cheating relates, he was bound, either by law, or by a legal contract, to protect, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. This section is imposed in which the parties are in fiduciary relationship and the offender is supposed to protect the interest of the aggrieved party. Such as the relationship between doctor and patient, lawyer and his client, teacher and student, principal and agent, etc. Additional to this the presence of dishonest intention is also required. In S Sharkarmani & Ors v Nibhar Ranjan Parida the court declared that if the dishonest intention of accused to cheat is not present then there is no offence committed under section 418 of IPC. The accused cannot be held liable for cheating[6].

Section 419

Punishment for cheating by personation— “Whoever cheats by personation shall be punished with imprisonment of either de­scription for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”.[7] To make this section to act one must prove that all the essentials of cheating are being fulfilled and the accused has both impersonated and cheated. The same section was upheld in the case of Thakur Mandal v Emperor, AIR 1942 Pat 43.

Section 420

Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property.—“Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person de­ceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”[8]. It constitutes the elements for the offence to come into action.

  • There must be cheating
  • Presence of dishonest intentions to take away the property of another person or to destroy or alter the value of that property indulging the person into the state of deprivation.
  • There must be deceitful or malice intentions.

Civil liability v criminal liability

While dealing with the offence one of the most important factors to keep in mind is to clarify the nature of the case i.e. Civil or Criminal. In civil cases the failure to perform the whole or the part of a contract renders breach of contract resulting into cancellation of contract. Section 73 of Indian Contract Act 1872 well explains the fact that the losses occurred due to the non performance of the contract would be considered and compensated. It is actionable when the binding agreement is not performed by anyone or both the parties in the aggrieved time. In Civil cases the malice intention is not a deciding factor from the beginning. The breach is due to some reasons not allowing performing the contract as decided.  In Nageshwar Prasad Sinha vs Narayan Singh AIR 1999[9] the honourable Supreme Court established the liability only for being civil in nature not for criminal as to breach the contract was not present from beginning. In the leading case Narayan Singh entered into an agreement of sale with the accused for selling some properties in Patna city. Part of the sale was done as part of money was paid. Possession of property was also given but the complainant failed to make full payment on the agreed time leading to failure in legal formalities. In Criminal Cases it is covered under criminal law considering section 415-420 of IPC. It is a dishonest act performed intentionally to gain advantage over the other. Presence of mental element is of utmost importance during the execution of offence.

Critical Analysis

There is an immense demand to be attentive and watchful towards the offence of cheating. It is one of the most reported offences nowadays.  To deceive or make someone believe by imposing oneself or an imaginary character for personal benefits is common in this era to competition and advancement.  All are heading towards victory, some by their hard work, dedication, intelligence and aspiration whereas some by cheating or by using dishonest and unfair means. Here comes the role of law, it is the guardian of the society and tends to be unbiased irrespective of other factors. The Indian Law is strict towards the unlawful activity of cheating.  Section 415-420 of Indian Penal Code covers the meaning, essentials, punishment and different forms of cheating. Section 24 well explains the term ‘dishonest’ one of the crucial element of the offence. Section 25 deals with the term ‘fraudulently ‘as to do something with the intention to make profit over the loss of other person. There must be presence of dishonest intentions with concealment of true facts along with malicious intention to deceive someone to transfer property or to alter or destroy anything which is of valuable amount or which can be measured in the terms of money. The punishment for the offence is mentioned under section 417 of Indian Penal Code.   Depending on the gravity of the crime the punishment is rendered. It includes imprisonment of six months to one year or fine or both. In more grievous cases time period of imprisonment may be increased.


 The act of ‘Cheating’ is not only amoral, unprincipled or dishonourable in the society but also an unlawful activity as per law. It is a punishable act under the eye of law and the one committing this crime must be penalized and made liable for his actions. This would not only make a clear visibility towards the offence but would also prove that that the action is not ignored by the society as well as by law.  It cannot be overlooked in any perspective. One has to be liable whether it is civil or criminal in nature. It is paramount to keep in mind that success has to be achieved but not as the cost of others forfeiture. It is important to be fair, diligent, energize and unprejudiced towards the attainment of objective and desires. One has to be more reasonable, alert and prudent towards the wrongs occurring in the society.  It is not peaceful to remain distract from such activities, be actionable against the immoral sections and make them clear that it is not acceptable in an organized and cultured society.  Laws framed towards the crime must be followed and ruled appropriately in order to maintain peace, harmony and belief in the society. The culprits must be punished for their wrongful deeds; it would clear the intention and stability of rule of and would set an example in the society too. Numerous cases both civil and criminal in nature have been reported and some of the landmark judgments held by the courts plays a vital role. Thus all have to be wide awake towards the offence of cheating and try to be more attentive both generally and legally.

[1]  Indian Penal Code 1860 s 415

[2] Indian Penal Code 1860 s 24

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860 s 24

[4]  Indian Penal Code 1860 , s  416

[5] Appasami, (1889)12  Mad 151

[6] S Sharkarmani & Ors v Nibhar Ranjan Parida (1991) Cr LJ 65( Ori)

[7] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 19

[8] Indian Penal Code1860 s 420

[9] Nageshwar Prasad Sinha vs Narayana Singh AIR 1999 SC 1480

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