Perjury or Forgery in Court: How to Proceed on it?

Giving false evidence is an offence

The act of giving false oral evidence (perjury) or giving false written statement (forgery) is a criminal offence, punishable under Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

The word perjury is not used in IPC, but forgery is described in Section 463 IPC.

What does perjury & forgery mean?

Perjury is the act or crime of knowingly making a false statement (as about a material matter) while under oath or bound by an affirmation or other officially prescribed declaration that what one says, writes, or claims is true whereas Forgery is the act of falsely making, altering, or imitating a document or signature, with intent to defraud.

Punishment for perjury & forgery

The punishment for the offence of perjury in relation to a judicial proceeding is provided under Sections 191 to 196, 199, 200, 205 to 211 of the IPC.

The punishment for the offence of forgery in relation to a judicial proceeding described in Section 463 of IPC, and punishable under Sections 471, 475, 476 of IPC.

Any criminal conspiracy to commit or attempt to commit or the abetment of any offence, coming under the above sections, can also be prosecuted in the same manner as the offence is prosecuted.

What perjury is under IPC

The Section 191 of the IPC states, “Whoever, being legally bound by an oath or by an express provision of law to state the truth or being bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject, makes any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, is said to give false evidence.”

The Section 193 of the IPC adds: “Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any stage of a judicial proceeding, or fabricates false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine, and whoever intentionally gives or fabricates false evidence in any other case, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Just lying is not an offence but lying under an oath is a criminal offence which would attract punishment.

Offence of forgery under IPC

The offence of forgery is described in the Section 463 of IPC which states, “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”.

The basic element of forgery are making of a false document, or part of it, with such intention to cause damage or infringe to the public or any person, to support any claim or title, or to cause any person to part with his property, or to cause any person to enter into an express or implied contract or to commit any fraud.

Special procedure for prosecution of such offences

The prosecution of the offence of perjury and forgery as the part of judicial proceedings can be done by a special procedure provided in Sections 195 and 340 of the Criminal Procedure code, 1973 (CrPC).

Who should make a complaint?

To prosecute a person for perjury or forgery, the court, where the offence was committed alone, should make a complaint.

The complaint must be in writing either by the presiding officer, or by an officer duly authorised by that court, or by some other higher court under which the court comes, to the Judicial Magistrate having jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offence.

Complaining court should make an enquiry

The court, which decides to make a complaint, should conduct a preliminary enquiry, record the findings of that enquiry, and should find that there was a deliberate and conscious attempt to interfere in the administration of justice, to forward such a complaint to the Magistrate. If there is an acquittal there should not be a complaint under section 340 of CrPC.

The Supreme Court (SC) in Ashok Kumar Aggarwal v Union of India & Ors ( AIR 2014 SC 1020) says, “in order to initiate prosecution for perjury, the court must prima facie reach a conclusion after holding preliminary inquiry that there has been a deliberate and conscious effort to misguide the court and interfere in the administration of justice. More so, it has to be seen whether such a prosecution is necessary in the interest of justice”.

The court has discretion to drop the case

If the Magistrate Court finds in the preliminary enquiry that it is not proper to forward the complaint to the Magistrate, the court has every right to do so. The court, which is expected to forward the complaint, has judicial discretion in deciding whether to forward the complaint or not.

Every incorrect or false statement does not make it incumbent upon the court to order prosecution for perjury.

Higher court can step in when there is lapse

If a court improperly uses the discretionary power and abstains from its duty to forward complaint in a genuine case, the higher court has enough power to initiate action on the perjury. It is a corrective provision.

Giving false oral evidence has become a way of life

The SC in Mahila Vinod Kumari versus State of Madhya Pradesh states, “The evil of perjury has assumed alarming propositions in cases depending on oral evidence and in order to deal with the menace effectively, it is desirable for the courts to use the provision more effectively and frequently than it is presently done”.

But unfortunately, there is no sincere attempt to correct this malady afflicting our judicial process, and to put an end to consequent injustices of varying forms.

Further reading

  1. Ganapathi Swami P S v Karthikeyan & Others: 2017 (2) KLD 889
  2. Ashok Kumar Aggarwal v Union of India & Ors : AIR 2014 SC 1020
  3. Mahila Vinod Kumari versus State of Madhya Pradesh
  4. Indian Penal Code, 1860
  5. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973