In simple terms, forgery is the making of false documents with the criminal intention to cause damage to any person. Forgery in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is defined in section 463. Section 464 deals with the making of a false document or false electronic record, while section 465 provides punishment for forgery.
Section 463. Forgery.- [Whoever makes any false documents or false electronic record or part of a document or electronic record, with intent to cause damage or injury], to the public or to any person, or to support any claim or title, or to cause any person to part with property, or to enter into any express or implied contract, or with intent to commit fraud or that fraud may be committed, commits forgery.
Section 464 Making a false document. — 341 [A person is said to make a false document or false electronic record— First —Who dishonestly or fradulently—
(a) makes, signs, seals or executes a document or part of a document;
(b) makes or transmits any electronic record or part of any electronic record;
(c) affixes any 342 [electronic signature] on any electronic record;
(d) makes any mark denoting the execution of a document or the authenticity of the 342 [electronic signature],
with the intention of causing it to be believed that such document or part of document, electronic record or electronic signature was made, signed, sealed, executed, transmitted or affixed by or by the authority of a person by whom or by whose authority he knows that it was not made, signed, sealed, executed or affixed; or
Secondly —Who, without lawful authority, dishonestly or fraudulently, by cancellation or otherwise, alters a document or an electronic record in any material part thereof, after it has been made, executed or affixed with electronic signature either by himself or by any other person, whether such person be living or dead at the time of such alteration; or
Thirdly —Who dishonestly or fraudulently causes any person to sign, seal, execute or alter a document or an electronic record or to affix his electronic signature on any electronic record knowing that such person by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication cannot, or that by reason of deception practised upon him, he does not know the contents of the document or electronic record or the nature of the alteration.
Ingredients of forgery
The elements of forgery are –
- The making of a false document or any part of it
- Such making should be with the intent
- To cause damage or injury to public or any person
- To support any claim or title
- To cause any person to part with property
- To cause any person to enter into express or implied contract
- To commit fraud or that fraud may be committed
‘Makes any false document’
The simple making of a false document is sufficient to constitute forgery. What amounts to making of a false document is explained in section 464. The document need not be published or made in the name of a real person but it must appear to possess some legal validity or in other words, must be legally capable of effecting the fraud intended. In Shankerlal Vishwakarma v State of M.P., a school inspector prepared under his own signature false pay bills containing false claims for salaries of teachers who had not worked within his jurisdiction, some of them being purely fictitious, and encashed them. He was held guilty of making a false document but not of forgery because he had not made the signature or writing of another, nor had he altered the bills.
It is necessary that the document must have been executed with the intention of causing it to be believed that it was made by the authority of a person by whom or by whose authority he knows it was not made.
To cause damage or injury to the public or any person
The intention must be to cause damage or injury to the public or any individual by the false document. This intent is the gist of the offence. It is not material whether the damage or injury is actually caused or not.
Support any claim or title
A man will be guilty of forgery when, even though he has a legal claim to property, he counterfeits documents in order to support this claim. This claim is not restricted to property. It can be claims to anything, for example, claim to be admitted to attendance at a law class in college.
To cause any person to part with property
The property in question need not be in existence when the false document is made. A written certificate has been held to be property within the meaning of this section.
Intent to commit fraud
The offence gets completed when the false document is made with the intent to commit fraud, even though it is not made with any of the other intents laid down in section 463. To constitute forgery, it is necessary to show that there was defrauding i.e. deceit and injury. Injury is something other than economic loss and it will include any harm whatever caused to any person in body, mind, reputation or such. Thus, it a non economic or non pecuniary loss.
Intent to defraud any particular person not necessary
There only needs to be a general intention. Intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another is not necessary to constitute the offence of forgery.
Punishment for forgery
Section 465 lays down that anyone who has committed forgery will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years and/or fine.
Aggravated forms of forgery
- Section 466 provides a punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years plus fine to anyone who forges a document or electronic record to make it appear to –
- Record of a Court of Justice
- Register of birth, baptism, marriage or burial
- Register kept by a public servant
- Certificate made by a public servant in his official capacity
- an authority to institute or defend a suit or to take any proceedings therein or confess judgement
- a power of attorney
- Section 467 provides for a punishment of imprisonment which may extend to ten years and fine when the forged document
a. Purports to be
- A valuable security
- A will
- An authority to adopt a son
b. Gives anyone authority
- To make or transfer any valuable security
- To receive the principal, interest or dividends on a security
- To receive or deliver any money, moveable property or valuable security
c. Purport to be an acquittance receipt
- For acknowledging the payment of money
- The delivery of any moveable property or valuable security
- Section 468 provides a punishment of imprisonment which may extend to seven years plus fine to anyone who commits forgery with the intention of using that document or electronic record for cheating.
- Section 469 lays down a punishment of imprisonment which may extend to three years plus fine when the forged document is made to harm the reputation of any person.
- Section 471 lays down that whoever dishonestly or fraudulently uses a forged document or electronic record as a genuine document, knowing or having reason to believe that the document is forged, will be punishes in the same manner as if he made the forged document or electronic record himself.
 1991 Cr LJ 2808 (MP)