In everyday life, telling lies may be forgiven, but what happens when you make false statements during court proceedings? In a broad sense, a false claim is when someone deliberately makes an incorrect statement or claim to obtain a benefit or reward, or when someone knowingly provides (or causes to be given) a false or fraudulent claim to anybody (here courts). Today’s courts are much harsher when it comes to fraudulent allegations, and individuals who engage in such behaviour face harsh penalties. What are the laws on the subject, and how are they interpreted by Indian and foreign courts?
Law regarding the fraudulent claim in Court
Offences against public justice are covered in Chapter 11 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 209 says, “Dishonestly bringing a false allegation in court, whoever makes false claims before a Court of Justice, whether fraudulently or dishonestly, or with the desire to damage or annoy another person, will be punished by imprisonment of either sort for a time that may extend to two years, as well as a fine.”
Basic elements to constitute section 209
The following are the basic elements of a section 209 offence:
- The defendant made a claim;
- the suit was brought in a court of law:
- the assertion was entirely or partially false
- the defendant was aware that the assertion was false; and
- the allegation was made dishonestly, fraudulently, or to harm or annoy someone.
Meaning of word-“claim” under Section 209
The term “claim” is defined under Section 209 of the IPC. A claim is the existence or non-existence of a fact or set of facts upon which a disputing party seeks a court ruling based on substantive law and its application to the facts as proven. The claim also includes false denial-defence pleadings. A claim to the existence of fact(s) in the positive can be made in a plaint, writ petition, or application; however, a claim to the existence of fact(s) in the negative can be made in a written declaration, counter-affidavit, or reply to the plaint/petition.
Purpose of criminalizing false claims
- The purpose of a party making a false claim is to swindle not only the plaintiff but maybe a third party.
- The purpose of criminalizing false claims and defences is to prevent plaintiffs and defendants from abusing the legal system by making purposeful false statements, therefore perverting the course of justice and undermining the law’s authority.
- The phrase “with intent to hurt any person” in section 209 suggests that the victim of the deception could be a third party, not necessarily the plaintiff.
How courts interpret this law in various cases
In the case of Bulaki Ram vs. Queen-Empress (1890)All WN1, the plaintiff was ordered to be prosecuted for bringing false claims against the defendant to obtain money. The High Court determined in the case of Badri v. Emperor, AIR 1919 All 323, that section 209 used the words “Court of Justice” rather than “Court of Justice with Jurisdiction.” It makes no difference whether the court in which the fraudulent claim was filed had jurisdiction to hear the case. In Ramnandan Prasad Narayan Singh v. Public Prosecutor, Patna Citation – (1921) 22 Cr LJ 467, the Patna High Court concluded that dismissing the plaintiff’s claim would not warrant sanction under section 209 of the Indian Penal Code.
- It is insufficient to show that the accused failed to substantiate his claim in the civil suit or that the code did not rely on evidence because of contradictions or improbabilities.
- Overconfidence is not the same as making a misleading assertion.
- Section 209 is not compoundable or cognizable.
- A person has committed an offence under section 209 when he simultaneously makes false statements in a court of law.
The Delhi High Court in the case of, Hs Bedi vs National Highway Authority of India held that, when a false claim is filed in court, the crime is complete. In the case of, Bachoo Mohan Singh v. Public Prosecutor Citation -(2010) SGCA 25, the Singapore supreme court held that false assertions do not include overestimation or overstated pleas.
Some other rulings on False Claims in Court
In the case of, Deputy legal remembrancer and Public Prosecutor of Bihar and Orissa was Ram Udhar Singh citation here 1915 cal 457, The Kolkata High Court gave Ram Udhar Singh (plaintiff) permission to be prosecuted under section 209 of the Indian Penal Code for filing a bogus claim in court through a recovery suit. The Supreme Court of India has not issued a direct judgment on Section 209 of the Indian Penal Code, but it has expressed concern over fraudulent claims in court in several cases and has utilized its contempt power in some cases to penalize litigants for their false claims. Motivated falsehoods must be dealt with appropriately; otherwise, no court would be able to provide true justice.
“Forced claims and defences are serious problems.” Cited in Chandra Shashi versus Anil Kumar Verma reported in 1995 SCC 421 In the case of, Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernades vs. Erasmo Jack de Sequira was reported in (2012) 5 SCC 370, it was decided that:
- That is relevant instances, the courts may contemplate directing prosecution; otherwise, the purity and sanctity of judicial procedures may be jeopardized – Rameshwari Devi vs. Nirmala Devi, S SCC 249, reported in 2011.
- The court knows the law, but not the circumstances……… In the case, of Kishore Samrite vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, reported in 2013 2 SSC 398, suppression or concealing of material facts is not acceptable for a plaintiff or even as a method for advocacy.
Which Countries Have the same law as Section 209
In Singapore, a provision similar to Section 209 is common. Malaysia Pakistan Myanmar and Brunei are both Muslim-majority countries. These five countries’ penal codes are identical to section 209 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Indian Penal Code’s Section 209 should only be used to defend the court’s legitimacy, not to persecute the righteous. The Delhi High Court declared unequivocally that section 209 should be used by the judiciary to defend the rights of the good, and that it should be enacted as soon as possible to prevent false claims in the courts. Half of the cases currently lingering in Indian courts would be settled if Section 209 were introduced sooner.
Author(s) Name: Jay Kumar Gupta (NMIMS School of Law, Bengaluru)