Procedure for prosecution for using forged document in court proceedings

Forgery in court proceedings

Section 195(1)(b) of Criminal Procedure Code is as under:

No Court shall take cognizance-(b) (i) of any offence punishable under any of the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860 ), namely, sections 193 to 196 (both inclusive), 199, 200, 205 to 211 (both inclusive) and 228, when such offence is alleged to have been committed in, or in relation to, any proceeding in any Court, or
(ii) of any offence described in section 463, or punishable under section 471, section 475 or section 476, of the said Code, when such offence is alleged to have been committed in respect of a document produced or given in evidence in a proceeding in any Court, or
(iii) of any criminal conspiracy to commit, or attempt to commit, or the abetment of, any offence specified in sub- clause (i) or sub- clause (ii), except on the complaint in writing of that Court, or of some other Court to which that Court is subordinate.

The bar contained in Section 195(1)(b)(ii) of the Code is not applicable to case where forgery of the document was committed before the document was produced in a Court.

[Source: Sachida Nand Singh vs. State of Bihar 1998 (2) SCC 493]

Procedural law not the penal law:

This section is not a penal provision but is part of a procedural law, namely, Code of Criminal Procedure which elaborately gives the procedure for trial of criminal cases. The provision only creates a bar against taking cognizance of an offence in certain specified situations except upon complaint by Court. A penal statute is one upon which an action for penalties can be brought by a public officer or by a person aggrieved and a penal act in its wider sense includes every statute creating an offence against the State, whatever is the character of the penalty for the offence. The principle that a penal statute should be strictly construed, as projected by the learned counsel for the appellants can, therefore, have no application here.

Need for purposive interpretation:

In view of the language used in Section 340 Cr.P.C. the Court is not bound to make a complaint regarding commission of an offence referred to in Section 195(1)(b), as the Section is conditioned by the words “Court is of opinion that it is expedient in the interest of justice.” This shows that such a course will be adopted only if the interest of justice requires and not in every case. Before filing of the complaint, the Court may hold a preliminary enquiry and record a finding to the effect that it is expedient in the interests of justice that enquiry should be made into any of the offences referred to in Section 195(i)(b). This expediency will normally be judged by the Court by weighing not the magnitude of injury suffered by the person affected by such forgery or forged document, but having regard to the effect or impact, such commission of offence has upon administration of justice. It is possible that such forged document or forgery may cause a very serious or substantial injury to a person in the sense that it may deprive him of a very valuable property or status or the like, but such document may be just a piece of evidence produced or given in evidence in Court, where voluminous evidence may have been adduced and the effect of such piece of evidence on the broad concept of administration of justice may be minimal. In such circumstances, the Court may not consider it expedient in the interest of justice to make a complaint. The broad view of clause (b)(ii), as canvassed by learned counsel for the appellant, would render the victim of such forgery or forged document remediless. Any interpretation which leads to a situation where a victim of a crime is rendered remediless, has to be discarded.

An enlarged interpretation to Section 195(1)(b)(ii), whereby the bar created by the said provision would also operate where after commission of an act of forgery the document is subsequently produced in Court, is capable of great misuse. As pointed out in Sachida Nand Singh, after preparing a forged document or committing an act of forgery, a person may manage to get a proceeding instituted in any civil, criminal or revenue court, either by himself or through someone set up by him and simply file the document in the said proceeding. He would thus be protected from prosecution, either at the instance of a private party or the police until the Court, where the document has been filed, itself chooses to file a complaint. The litigation may be a prolonged one due to which the actual trial of such a person may be delayed indefinitely. Such an interpretation would he highly detrimental to the interest of society at large.

Using forged document in court

Section 195(1)(b)(ii) Cr.P.C. would be attracted only when the offences enumerated in the said provision have been committed with respect to a document after it has been produced or given in evidence in a proceeding in any Court i.e. during the time when the document was in custodia legis.

In the present case, the will has been produced in the Court subsequently. It is nobody’s case that any offence as enumerated in Section 195(b)(ii) was committed in respect to the said will after it had been produced or filed in the Court of District Judge. Therefore, the bar created by Section 195(1)(b)(ii) Cr.P.C. would not come into play and there is no embargo on the power of the Court to take cognizance of the offence on the basis of the complaint filed by the respondents.

[Source: Iqbal Singh Marwah vs. Meenakshi Marwah, (2005) 4 SCC 370 (FB)  followed in Senior Manager(P And D) Riico Ltd vs The State Of Rajasthan, decided by SC on 3 November, 2017]

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