During the times of Covid-19, the economy of the world has turned to worse. In a situation where many people are losing their jobs, companies using the techniques of layoffs and retrenchment to survive in the market, the hardships faced by the citizens are countless. Adverse situations lead to more miseries. Many people are resorting to unlawful means to make the pretty penny; finding new and innovative means to unlawfully obtain the hard earn money of innocent people. According to the news, there has been an upsurge in cybercrimes during the lockdown. Cybercriminals are adopting new ways to ‘cheat’ people now and then.
To get into the details of the most frequently heard word ‘cheating’, let us analyze the concept of ‘Cheating’ under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
Cheating comes under the chapter of ‘Offences against the Property’. Sections 415 to 420 of IPC talk about the offence of cheating, its definition, the essentials of the offence, and the corresponding punishments. The law regarding cheating is given under Section 415.
In the case of Ram Jas v State of Uttar Pradesh, all the essentials required for committing the offense of cheating were given. They are; A person is said to commit cheating when one person deceives the other individual–
- When he/she induces the different person with dishonest or fraudulent way –
- Deliver any property
- Gets his consent to retain any property
- And induces him with intention –
- To do or omit to do (which the said person would not do or omit if there has been no inducement).
- And such an act or omission causes or can cause some damage to the other person. The damage can happen to a person’s body, reputation, mind, or property.
The first part of the definition held that the inducement caused must be fraudulent, or it must be dishonestly done. In the second part, the inducement should be caused with some intention behind it. The element of ‘deception’ will remain in both parts. Deception means to deceive someone believe something that is not true or make a person disbelieve a fact that is true. The act of deception can be caused either expressly by words or by gestures i.e implied in the nature of the transaction.
CRITICAL ASPECTS OF CHEATING AS AN OFFENCE
- There should be a Dishonest Intention at the Initial Stage –
It is important to prove that the inducement by the accused person was done with a malicious intention. At the time of making the promise itself, it is required that the person has a dishonest intention in the back of his mind. Not honoring a promise after the transaction will only create civil liability, not a liability of criminal nature for the offence of cheating.
- The intention to fulfill the Promise was never present –
During the time of making a fake representation, the accused should not have any intention to honor the promises that he is making, to induce the other person. Merely saying that he would pay the amount at the end of the transaction, with no intention of actually paying it would fall under the category of cheating under IPC.
- Such Fraudulent Act must cause either Wrongful Gain or Wrongful Loss –
The definition of “Dishonestly” is provided under Section 24 of IPC. ‘Wrongful gain’ and ‘Wrongful loss’ are the two facets of the definition of dishonest intention. Even the presence of any of these two will constitute cheating. There is no requirement to prove both of them.
- Mens Rea: A Needed Ingredient –
The element of Mens rea must be essentially present under Section 420 of IPC. If this element is not present, the offense of cheating cannot be committed. It can only fall under the category of civil liability, not under criminal liability.
LOSS AND BENEFITS ARISING OUT OF CHEATING
Section 415 of IPC talks about the damage caused or likely to be caused to the deceived person’s body, mind, reputation, or property. There must be direct and close proximity between the act or omission and the damage thus caused. The damage must not be in remote consequence of the dishonest inducement.
There may arise certain situations in the offence of cheating, let’s critically analyze each of them.
- When there arises No Damage to the Complainant –
If a false representation made by the accused causes no damage or harm to the complainant then there will arise no liability regarding the offence of cheating. Even if it could be established that such false representation was a dishonest or fraudulent act. A person cannot be said to commit the offence of cheating if neither wrongful loss nor wrongful gain has been caused to him.
- When Damage is caused to Complainant but No Benefit to Accused –
In situations where the accused party himself does not gain any benefit out of cheating, but the complainant has suffered some loss, the offence of cheating is committed.
- Incurring Loss to the Complainant is Not the Essential Ingredient of Cheating –
Because of the dishonest inducement of an individual, there can be either wrongful loss to one individual or wrongful gain to another. At whatever point any of these outcomes follows because of the deception then, at that point, the offence of cheating would be established
FURTHER SECTIONS REGARDING THE OFFENCE OF CHEATING
SECTION 416 AND SECTION 419:
Section 416 of IPC talks about the offence of cheating by personification. Section 419 also deals with the corresponding punishment with it. When one person impersonates someone else, he/she will be held liable for cheating. The person impersonated can be real or imaginary.
SECTION 417 AND SECTION 420:
The punishment for cheating is provided under Section 417 and 420 of IPC. Cases of simple cheating are covered under section 417 whereas aggravated cases are covered under section 420. Under Section 420, the deceived individual is dishonestly induced:
(a) to deliver some property to any individual
(b) to make, alter or destroy
(i) the entire or any piece of valuable property
(ii) anything which is signed or sealed, and which is fit for being changed over into important security.
This section provides for the cheating cases arising out of fiduciary relationships. Some examples of fiduciary relationships can be said to exist between advocate and client, banker and customer, guardian and ward, and so on. When people in these relations make false statements with the dishonest intention of cheating others, they can be held liable under cheating.
The offense of cheating as under IPC is a fairly different concept than in torts and contracts. Here the most important feature is the dishonest intention of the defendant. The person must dishonestly induce the other person by deceitful means in order to take advantage from him. Deception and Inducement are the two conditions that lead to the offense of cheating. Either wrongful loss or wrongful gain must be the result out of the offense of cheating under IPC.
Author(s) Name: Anushka Singh
1] Indian Penal Code 1860, ch. (XVII).
 AIR 1974 SC 1811.
 Ramanarayan Popoli v. CBI (2003) 3 SCC 641.
 Hari Prasad Chamaria v. Bhisun Kumar Surekha AIR 1974 SC 301.
 Tulsi Ram v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1963 SC 666.
 Hari Sao v State of Bihar AIR 1970 SC 843.