In every society, trust is the bedrock upon which relationships, interactions, and transactions are built. In India, laws pertaining to cheating and criminal breach of trust play a crucial role in addressing such offences, ensuring accountability, and upholding justice. The origins of laws related to cheating and criminal breach of trust are provided in Indian Penal Code, 1860.
What is cheating?
Cheating is a criminal offence under Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code, which is defined as “Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property is said to ‘cheat’.”
The key elements of cheating are mentioned as follows:
*The victim must be induced through dishonest means such as false representations, concealment of facts, or any other deceptive conduct.
*The offender must have a fraudulent intention to deceive the victim, thereby inducing them to act upon the false representation or concealment.
*The same should cause wrongful loss to the victim or gain an unfair advantage for oneself or another person.
Other provisions related to cheating
Section 416 of the IPC: This Section of the Indian Penal Code defines the term ‘cheating by personation’. It states that “A person is said to cheat by personation if he cheats by pretending to be some other person, or by knowingly substituting one person or another, or representing that he or any other person is a person other than he or such other person really is. Explanation: The offence is committed whether the individual personated is a real or imaginary person.” The punishment for the same is mentioned in Section 419 of the IPC, which is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with a fine, or with both.
Section 418 of the IPC: It deals with ‘cheating with the knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect’. If the offender cheats with the knowledge that he is likely to cause wrongful loss to a person whose interests he is bound to protect, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 420 of the IPC: As per this Section, “Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter, or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
What is a criminal breach of trust?
A criminal breach of trust occurs when a person who is entrusted with property or dominion over property dishonestly misappropriates or converts it for their own use. Under Section 405 of the IPC, a criminal breach of trust is defined as “Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or wilfully suffers any other person so to do, commits ‘criminal breach of trust’.”
The key elements of the criminal breach of trust are mentioned as follows:
The property must be entrusted to the offender either by the victim or by someone on behalf of the victim.
The offender must dishonestly misappropriate or convert the entrusted property for their own benefit or the benefit of someone else.
The act of misappropriation or conversion must involve a breach of trust placed on the offender. This breach can be an abuse of the position of trust or a violation of the legal obligations associated with the entrusted property.
Some of the key differences between cheating and criminal Breach of Trust are mentioned as follows:
Cheating: This offence is defined under Section 415 of the IPC.
Criminal Breach of Trust: This offence is defined under Section 405 of the IPC.
Nature of Offence
Cheating: It primarily involves fraudulent inducement or performing an act based on false representations or concealment of facts. It focuses on the act of inducing someone through dishonest means.
Criminal Breach of Trust: It centres around the abuse of trust or breach of fiduciary obligations. It occurs when a person, who is entrusted with property or dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts it for their own use or the benefit of someone else.
Cheating: It required fraudulent intent on the part of the offender. They must have the intention to deceive and induce the victim to act upon their false representations.
Criminal Breach of Trust: In this case, the emphasis is on the dishonest misappropriation or conversion of entrusted property by a person who was in a position of trust. The intent is not necessarily focused on deception but rather on the violation of the entrusted property.
Cheating: In the offence of cheating, the victim’s consent plays a crucial role which is obtained on the basis of fraudulent inducement. The victim’s consent is obtained under false pretences, as they are induced to act or deliver property based on the offender’s dishonest conduct. Therefore, while the victim may have initially consented, it is consent that is vitiated by the fraudulent inducement.
Criminal Breach of Trust: In the offence of criminal breach of trust, consent is not a defining factor as the focus is on the breach of trust and violation of fiduciary obligations. Herein, the offence is committed irrespective of whether the owner of the property has given their consent or not.
Nature of Property
Cheating: Played against immovable property only.
Criminal Breach of Trust: Played against movable or immovable property.
Nature of Loss
Cheating: It generally involves causing wrongful gain to the offender or others, or causing wrongful loss to the victim. The gain or loss is a direct result of the fraudulent inducement.
Criminal Breach of Trust: It primarily entails the misappropriation or conversion of entrusted property, resulting in wrongful loss to the person to whom the property belongs or was entrusted. The focus is on the betrayal of trust and the resulting loss suffered by the victim.
Cheating: Under Section 417 of the IPC, anyone who cheats is punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine, or with both.
Criminal Breach of Trust: Under Section 406 of the IPC, anyone who commits a criminal breach of trust is punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine, or with both.