Fraud avoids all judicial acts, ecclesiastical or temporal
Fraud is a deception deliberately practiced to achieve unfair or unlawful gain. Fraud apart from being a criminal offence is also a civil wrong in India, as at most places. It is defined by section 17 of Contract Act of India. Misrepresentation is defined by section 18 of said Act. The definition of fraud and misrepresentation is as under:
Definition of fraud:
“Fraud” means and includes any of the following acts committed by a party to a contract, or with his connivance, or by his agents, with intent to deceive another party thereto his agent, or to induce him to enter into the contract;
(1) the suggestion as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true;
(2) the active concealment of a fact by one having knowledge or belief of the fact;
(3) a promise made without any intention of performing it;
(4) any other act fitted to deceive;
(5) any such act or omission as the law specially declares to be fraudulent.”
Definition of misrepresentation:
“Misrepresentation” means and includes –
(1) the positive assertion, in a manner not warranted by the information of the person making it, of that which is not true, though he believes it to be true;
(2) any breach of duty which, without an intent to deceive, gains an advantage to the person committing it, or anyone claiming under him; by misleading another to his prejudice, or to the prejudice of any one claiming under him;
(3) causing, however innocently, a party to an agreement, to make a mistake as to the substance of the thing which is subject of the agreement.
Effect of fraud:
A judgment or decree obtained by playing fraud on the court is a nullity and non est in the eyes of law. Such a judgment/decree by the first court or by the highest court has to be treated as a nullity by every court, whether superior or inferior. It can be challenged in any court even in collateral proceedings.
Duty to tell truth:
We do not agree with the High Court that “there is no legal duty cast upon the plaintiff to come to court with a true case and prove it by true evidence”. The principle of “finality of litigation” cannot be pressed to the extent of such an absurdity that it becomes an engine of fraud in the hands of dishonest litigants. The courts of law are meant for imparting justice between the parties. One who comes to the court, must come with clean hands. We are constrained to say that more often than not, process of the court is being abused. Property-grabbers, tax-evaders, bank-loan-dodgers and other unscrupulous persons from all walks of life find the court-process a convenient lever to retain the illegal-gains indefinitely. We have no hesitation to say that a person, who’s case is based on falsehood, has no right to approach the court. He can be summarily thrown out at any stage of the litigation….. ….A litigant, who approaches the court, is bound to produce all the documents executed by him which are relevant to the litigation. If he withholds a vital document in order to gain advantage on the other side then he would be guilty of playing fraud on the court as well as on the opposite party. (Extracted from: S.P Chengalvaraya Naidu v Jagannath, decided by Supreme Court of India on 27 October, 1993 reported at AIR 1994 SC 853, 1994 (1) SCC 1.