Cheating is a criminal offense and it has a myriad of crimes associated with it. It can be seen in various forms. In the layman’s language cheating can be described as a dishonest or unfair act done to gain an advantage over the other. Cheating is saying or doing something dishonesty that makes someone believe that something is true when it is not. It is a term we often hear in our daily lives but don’t know its legal aspects. To make a more clear understanding from a legal point of view, this article would be dealing with cheating and its constituents, punishment for this offense, and other legal issues related to it.

Cheating (Section 415-420 of IPC)

Indian Penal Code deals with this offense under sections 415 to 420.

Section 415 : Cheating

Cheating is defined under this section. It says that “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 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”.

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Constituents of Cheating

Acting Dishonestly 
The term ‘acting dishonestly’ has been defined under section 24 of the Indian Penal Code. It is defined as, “when the doing of any act or not causes wrongful gain of property to one person and a wrongful loss of property to a person, the said act is done dishonestly.”

Property 
Property has a much wider meaning. It does not only include money but other things as well which can be measured in the terms of money. The property should be in complete ownership of the person and he must have the full right to enjoy its possession.

Mens-Rea 
Men’s rea is the intention or action to constitute a crime. It is a mental state of an offender while committing a crime. It has to be proved beyond any doubt that the accused has actively contributed to a crime and that crime has affected another person’s property.

Section 416: Cheating by Personation.
A person is said to cheat by personation when, “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”.

Section 417: Punishment for Cheating
Cheating is punishable under this section with imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both. Imprisonment depends upon the quantum of the act done. If the act is not that grave, imprisonment won’t be imposed and will charge with a fine only. But when the act done is so grave that merely fine and imprisonment won’t compensate, then the person can be charged with mandatory imprisonment of 7 years along with a fine.

Section 418: Cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to a person whose interest the offender is bound to protect.

Under this section, “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 found, 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”.

Explanation: Causing loss to the aggrieved party whose interest is to be protected by the offender, omits to do so with wrongful intention.

    • Section 419: Punishment for cheating by personation.

Under this section, “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.”

    • Section 420: Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property.

This section deals with offenses that are committed by a person by cheating another person and inducing him to deliver his property to the offender.
According to this section “Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived 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”

    • Constituents of Section 420

The ingredients to constitute an offense under this section are:

    1. Cheating,
    2. Dishonest intention to take the property of another person or induce him to deliver the property to alter, destroy or make any changes in the valuable security, or
    3. Deceitful or malice intention.

Modes of cheating

There are various ways through which the offence of cheating can be committed. They are:

  • Caste Misrepresentation: when a person represents himself as a member of a caste to which he do not belong is committing an offence of cheating.
  • Showing false accounts: when a person shows false accounts of himself or of some other person to clear a debt, then is said to commit the offence of cheating.
  • Creating false evidence: when a person gives false evidence regarding some event then he can be held liable for the offence of cheating.
  • False professional qualification:when a person shows false professional qualification to acquire a post or job then he is said to commit the offence of cheating.

When does breach of the contract amount to cheating

Cheating

  • It is mentioned u/s 415 to 420 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • It is dealt under criminal law.
  • It is a dishonest act done in order to gain advantage over the other.
  • In it intention to deceive exists at the time when inducement is made. In the beginning, only the person must have fraudulent intention regarding the promise to constitute it as an offence of cheating.

Breach of Contract

  • It is mentioned u/s 73 of Indian Contract Act, 1872.
  • It is dealt under civil law.
  • It is a cause of action which occurs when the binding agreement is not performed.
  • In it the malice intention does not exist from the beginning of the contract. The breach is done due to some reasons at the time when it is about to get binding.

Jurisdiction

Under section 2 of IPC, it is stated that “Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within India.”
A national of Pakistan falsely represented himself as the businessman of Bombay. He assured the complainant that he is having good quality products and he would be glad to sell them to the complainant if he transfers the money to him. The complainant transferred the money but did not receive anything in return.
It was held that as the offense was committed in Bombay even though the accused is a national of Pakistan and was not physically present in India, the courts of Bombay has jurisdiction by virtue of Section 2 of IPC

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