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Cheating – Civil Liability vs. Criminal Liability.

चार सौ बीस!  We often hear this term in every nook and cranny of our Nation whenever someone talks of cheating. The term ‘चार सौ बीस’ depicts a legal argot adapted in a simple form. What is cheating? Is it a civil wrong or a criminal wrong? What difference does it make if it’s either of the two? Is it a bailable offense or a non-bailable offense?

Cheating, in simpler terms, can be explained as to deprive someone of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud or to influence or lead by deceit, trick or artifice. Cheating can be considered as both; Civil wrong and as well as a Criminal wrong.

Before diving deeper into the topic of cheating, let us first understand what the different kinds of laws are.

Criminal Law vs Civil Law

The code of the lands are often classified into different parts, but the two main classifications of any codes are; criminal and civil. Criminal Laws regulate crimes or the wrongs that have been committed against the State, whereas Civil Laws regulate disputes between the private parties, it is also known as private law.

A civil action is a lawsuit filed by any private person and not the state against another private person. Ordinarily, these lawsuits seek monetary damages for the injury, harm, or loss that the party suing alleges the party sued caused. Defendant losing a civil action doesn’t attract risk of prison or fines. In contrast, a criminal action is the prosecution of a person by the State for violating the provisions of criminal code. The defendant attracts the risk of prison, fine or other terms of punishment in case the charges imposed upon him are found to be true.

चार सौ बीस!

Cheating as per the Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, means 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. In simpler words, dishonest concealment of facts is deception within the meaning of this section.

Let us understand the concept of cheating with the help of some examples.

  • A, by falsely pretending to be in the civil service, intentionally deceives B, and thus dishonestly induces B to let him have goods on credit for which he doesn’t intend to pay. A cheated.
  • A, by exhibiting to C a false sample of an article, intentionally deceives C into a belief that the article corresponds with the sample, and thereby, dishonestly induces C to buy and pay for the article. A cheated.
  • A intentionally deceives D into a belief that A means to repay any money that D may lend him and thereby dishonestly induces D to lend him money. A not intending to repay it. A cheated.

Sections related to Cheating

Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, states 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 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.

Section 416 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, speaks of 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 418 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, speaks of Cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect. As per 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.

Section 419 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, speaks of Punishment for cheating by personation. As per 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 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, speaks of Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. This section deals with offenses which 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.

What does it take to designate an act as an act of Cheating?

Section 415 of the Indian Penal Court talks about the crime of cheating whereas the Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code speaks of the crime and also the punishment for the same which is committed by a person who cheats another person and thereby induces the deceived to deliver any property. According to the IPC, Section 420 states that 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.

Now, let us see what does it take to designate an act as an act of Cheating?

  1. Acting Dishonestly

The very first essential of Cheating is that a person must act dishonestly. This very term has been defined under Section 24 of the Indian Penal Code. It says that 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”.

  • Property

The term ‘Property’ has a wide meaning. It doesn’t only include monetary items but other things which can be measured in terms of money as well. There should be a dishonest inducement to deliver any property or to make, alter or destroy any valuable security or anything which is sealed or is capable of being converted into a valuable security.

  • Fraudulently

The third important essential of Cheating is “Fraud” or “Fraudulently”. Section 25 of the Indian Penal Code defines the very term. It states “a person is said to do a thing fraudulently if he does that thing with the intent to defraud but not otherwise.”

  • Mental Element

The fourth and also most important element of the act of cheating is the Mental Element. Mental Element or Mens Rea is the intention or action to constitute a crime. It can be referred to as the mental state of an offender while committing an offense. It needs to be proved beyond any doubt that the offender had actively contributed to the commitment of the crime and that crime as affected another person’s property.

Civil Cheating or Criminal Cheating

Cheating has found its place in both; Criminal Law and in Civil Law. In the prospect of Civil Law, the Tort of Deceit is a type of legal injury that occurs when a person intentionally and knowingly deceives another person into an action which might damage the deceived. The deceit requires that the tortfeasor;

  • makes a factual representation,
  • knowing that it is false, or reckless or indifferent about its fidelity,
  • intending that another person relies on it,
  • who then acts in compliance with it, to that person’s own impairment.

The liability in the tort of deceit falls upon the person who commits the tortious act. In the case of Tort, there are

In the prospect of Criminal Law, Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, defines the term “Cheating”. It states 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 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.

Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, states the Punishment for the offense of Cheating. It states that 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.

Conclusion

Cheating is a crime wherein a person induces another to deliver the property or commission or omission of an act done on the part of the offender with the intent to deceive the person. To designate any act as an act of Cheating, two elements need to be present i.e. deception and inducement. Cheating is often mistaken with other civil and criminal offenses but it differs from each of them in some or the other way.

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