IPC 420 – Indian Penal Code Section 420 Cheating and Dishonestly Inducing Delivery of Property

IPC 420: In this article, we will deal with the section 420 of Indian Penal Code, that is with the matter of Cheating and Dishonestly Inducing Delivery of Property.

If you have ever been cheated  or if someone has taken advantage of your naiveness then you are a victim of the offense of ‘Cheating’. It does happen on a daily basis but let’s look at the legal aspects for the same.

IPC 420 - Indian Penal Code Section 420
IPC 420 – Indian Penal Code Section 420

Cheating is a criminal offense and moreover it is associated with multiple other crimes like dishonor of cheque, cheating by the breach of contract, forgery of any valuable document, etc. It is an act of cheating to gain benefit from the second person or to cause jeopardy. When a person cheats he thereby dishonestly induces any individual to con a property to any other person, such person carrying out such transactions then the other is legally liable for penalty under section-420 of the Indian Penal Code.

Overview of Section 420 IPC

OffenseCheating or dishonestly conning delivery of property entire or partial, alteration or destruction of a valuable security
Penalty7 Years + Fine
Cognizable or Non- cognizableCognizable
Bail or Non- bailableNon-Bailable
Triable or notMagistrate First Class

What Does it Actually Mean to Cheat Under IPC 420?

Cheating as in Section-415 IPC as “Any individual deceiving any other individual, fraudulently persuading the person to carry out tasks to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally deceive to do or perform an act or omission that causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, statusor property, is said to “cheat”.

But, for an offense to fall under the Section 420 of IPC, it must be proved that the allegations are true with all the evidence pointing at it.

Penalties under Section 420 of IPC

An individual that has committed the crime of cheating is liable for punishment with an imprisonment of 7 consecutive years together with a fine.Such imprisonment and fine is subjective to the severity of the crime.

What to do if you are the Victim?

If an individual  has committed fraud and in the process caused loss of property or capital, you can take the following steps to redeem yourself.

The first step is to file a complaint under IPC Section 420 via the nearest police station from the place of the act committed.

Police will register a complaint,  make a DD Entry. The police will also provide you with a copy.

If by any chance the authorities refuse to register an FIR, you have to meet the higher authority present in that police station and proceed further. You can also mail the felony to the ACP of DCP. But,You must keep a copy of the receipt of the complaint mailed to the ACP/DCP until the case has been concluded.

File an application in court under section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code for registering an FIR. The receipt equips the court to file a case against the authority that denied filing the case.

Important Aspects Related to the Offense of Cheating

 instituted under IPC Section 420 have been mentioned in the following:

1. Dishonest Intention is to be Present during the Promise

Deception and dishonest intention are important elements to constitute the offense of cheating under IPC. It is to be verified in order for  the accused to be held guilty for the offense. Dishonesty at the making of the promise cannot be deemed liable by subsequent non-fulfilment of promise.

2. No Intention of Honoring the Promise during the Time of False Representation

The offense of cheating is characterized by an element of fraudulent intention from the initial stages. When one makes false claims to the other with intentions to gain profit, the intention to not honor the promise at the time of stating is presumed to be absent.

3. Dishonesty causing unlawful Gain or unlawful Loss

Dishonesty is defined under IPC Section 24 as omitting to do any act that results in a wrongful benefit to the accused with potential loss in property.

4. False Pretense to be implicated from Circumstances

False statements or representations made in order to benefit themselves through means of cheating are classified as false pretense. It is not necessarily required for the pretense to be false.It has to be implicated through the circumstances. Like, a person may have initiated the credit in order to deliver a  property but purposefully fails to do so. A false pretense can be used when one initiates a contract with the other. There should be an intent to scam, deceive or commit an act of fraud. The intention to commit cheating plays a very important role for the accused to be convicted and false pretense must be inferred from the circumstances of the case.

5. Mens Rea is an important aspect of Cheating under IPC

“Mens rea” refers to the mental state or tactic of a person while engaging in the crime. Considering the mental state that the accused is in while deciding the liability and the severity of the crime. Mens rea has to be testified as it is a crucial aspect for the offense under this section. It has to be proved that the accused has deliberately carried out the felony with a premeditated plan. Upon the successful verification of mens rea the offender is liable to all the charges mentioned under IPC Section-420.

6. Injury to Body, Mind, Reputation or Property Caused or likely

Cheating or scam done by an individual to another by false claims tricking him to believe something to be true when it is the exact opposite. This puts a dent to an individual’s body, status or property in possession or their ownership. Cheating or scams can be carried out by a person, in a fiduciary relationship with the other, it affects the victim’s mind. This can be done through false statements made by fabricating the facts and providing false evidence in order to deceive the other party. The person who is deceived entrusts the statements made by the offender and therefore gets  deceived and deems it to be true and then when the truth comes out it miserably affects the person in both mental and physical aspects. It results in stress and tension with trust issues. Mainly it causes the victim to have low self-esteem and monetary loss.

7. Is it Cheating When no Damage caused to Victim

If no damages have occurred to the complainant through the act of cheating, the accused is still liable to the charges according to IPC Section-420. As this still results in the victim to be cheated on by the offender and a mental harm is seen. The motive and objective of the offender in order to cheat are taken into consideration too and if it is detected that the accused has had a malicious intent to con the victim then the accused will be held guilty for the offense of cheating under IPC Section-420.

There is an emphasis on the intent of the accused as it is duly taken into consideration as it is the main deciding factor that determines the offense filed by the victim. Normally, the complaint is lodged the under IPC Section-420 when a person obtains a defective article or commodity in the services or product that he possess from the cheater, or if the individual is charged with a price more than the max retail price of a product or service, or also when a person suffers losses and damages from an unfair trade practice etc. Even if the victim does not suffer from a monetary loss or any sort of damage, the offender will still be held liable for cheating under Section 420 of the IPC.

8. Is it Cheating When the Accused is not benefited but the Complainant Suffers Loss

Since cheating is unacceptable morally, loss or gains by any means of cheating can be criminally wrong even if no profits are obtained to the offender and loss has been inferred to the victim who has been cheated on, in that case, the complainant body can readily sue the accused for the criminal act of cheating.

Even if the accused does not gain any sort of profit or obtain benefit of any sort but if the complainant suffers or incurs a loss then the complainant can bring an action for cheating under IPC Section-420.

9. Sustaining Loss, not a Criterion for Establishing the Offence of Cheating

Under sec 420 of IPC, only an individual void of being a consumer of the mentioned cheated goods or if the complainant did not obtain the service or goods by purchasing the services or goods for commercial and selling purpose is not entitled to gain the benefits from the goods or services that is not entitled to sue the offender for cheating under the IPC Section-420. A consumer or a person that is  to gain benefit from the goods or services can sue the offender for the offense of cheating and scam irrespective of the fact of any loss suffered or incurred by him or not. Even if the complainant does not lose, he can still bring a lawsuit under IPC for cheating under the mental issue aspects of this section.

Civil vs. Criminal Liability under Section 420

To distinguish between civil and criminal liabilities is concluded on the basis of the motive behind the act by the accused. It is significant to make notes of the intention and motives of the accused at the moment of commitment for the offence and then can be imposed either a civil liability or criminal liability. In the case of commercial transactions, it is often  difficult to conclude as to the type of liability that should be imposed. However, mere violations of a contract does not result in cheating under the IPC Section 420 unless it can be verified that the accused had a dishonest motive since the initial stages of the contract.

False Promise to Marital entitlement: Whether Cheating or Not?

The question boils down to if a false promise to marry is proposed by the offender to deceive a woman into engaging in sexual activities amounts to cheating ? The court of law under the supervision of Mr. Ravichandran V. Mariyammal  in the year 1992 Cr LJ 1675 (Mad), held that making false claims to proposal of marriage and deceiving any woman to enagage in sexual intercourse is an act that amounts to the offense of cheating and is punishable by the law underIPC Section 417.

Frequently  Questions relating to the IPC Section 420

What refers to dishonest inducement?

Dishonest inducement is an act where a person dishonestly persuades someone into doing something and/or committing an act that may or can cause damage or jeopardy towards the individual that has been dishonestly induced.

What is meant by property and delivery of property?

The term or word property has not been defined under this Act. However property signifies that of which  anything that is owned by an individual. It should include movable property such as car, or accessories, immovable property such as land, area, etc. tangible that which can be seen by our eyes or touched meaning that stimulates our perception and senses and intangible  which cannot be seen or touched through our senses such as ownership etc. Property can include anything that is owned by a person and that person has a right of possession and exclusive ownership enabling him to utilise the property that has monetary value. Delivery of property means the right to give or pass the rights of the property to another person or entity. Such transfers may be of complete or partial transfers of the rights in the property.

What is cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property?

In accordance to IPC Section 420, when a person through the act of scam or cheating, dishonestly cons any individual inducing them to believe and entrust to deliver any given property, or induces such a person to create, alter or destruct the entirety or partial aspects of a valuable or priced asset security, which is a document that signifies and attests any legal right is created, or any other documents which is signed or sealed and is capable of being converted into a valuable security asset.

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