Lot of the time people who are facing false cases — be it IPC 498A, false domestic violence allegations under DV Act, — tend to make a demand to lawmakers and political leaders, that a provision of law misuse must be added to so and so Act, e.g. add misuse clause to IPC 498A, or add misuse clause to rape law to punish women making false rape complaints.
All those demands are from made with good intentions, but there is a saying: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Which means: Even if we start doing something with good intentions, we may end up with bad consequences; because merely having good intentions is not enough, it has to be backed by proper analysis, and then taking right actions at right time. And one should be flexible and open-minded enough to change course of action midway if that’s what is required based on real life feedback.
The problem about demanding adding misuse clause (of course with good intentions) to specific sections of IPC are as follows:
- Generally, it is possible that any section of any law may be misused/abused, so adding a misuse section to each law provision would make it cumbersome to legislate and then maintain the statute. This doesn’t seem to be the way laws to punish law misuse have been made in most democratic countries either. So if there a need to punish law misuse, then adding clause to each law doesn’t seem to be the usual way.
- Since many types of misuse of laws will be similar, it will be simpler to create general provisions about misuse which can cover all applicable sections of IPC (or evidence in civil cases), and then vary the punishment based on severity of misuse, or severity of result to the accused/defendant. Indeed, some of that approach is already reflected in IPC even now, where there are special provisions to deal with false evidences which can lead to someone getting death penalty, or life imprisonment; since that is a severe misuse of the law warranting it’s own special section.
- Some people might make comment about specific misuse clauses added to sexual harassment law, or Jan Lokpal law. Sexual harassment law in India makes provisions for helping women (only women so far), to get a fair treatment at workplace if they accuse another co-worker of sexual harassment. It is not about judicial trial in a court, where those court related law misuse provisions could automatically become applicable. Which is why a specific misuse provision makes sense so that there is balance at workplace between punishing sexual harassment, vs. reducing false complaints. And regarding Jan Lokpal bill, it is basically a law to prevent corruption, and the misuse clause will actually help in protecting the accused politicians, bureaucrats from false complaints; so it can be argued that they are trying to safeguard their own interests and are quite smart in adding misuse clause in the specific corruption prevention act itself. It can’t be used as an example of best practice of law making which can be of use and help to all citizens.
This might be the right time to take action for changing IPC (Indian Penal Code), since an overhaul of IPC is underway at law ministry and law commission. IPC was first made in 1861 under British rule, and many of the laws were made with undertone of keeping Indians under control, rather than to do proper criminal justice. All that can be changed now, PROVIDED also that citizens themselves get involved, and don’t hope that government or some mai-baap at the top will fix all the things. The government or mai-baap may turn out to be not much different from British rule!
Why Indian courts rarely punish for false evidences, perjury etc.
Indians must be one unique kind of people. On various reports of global indices of corruption, transparency etc., India ranks usually towards the bottom of the list of countries. And generally Indians themselves consider India as corruption ridden; and they strongly feel ‘many other Indians’ are corrupt , but they don’t admit to being corrupt themselves. So it’s a convenient friendship with big talk, but in reality it’s just hypocrisy. As an example: recently someone sent me an email that his son is facing false 498A, and he gave bribe to police, but still the police has filed charge sheet against them. Bravo… You can’t argue with such people, they were only trying to get justice by giving bribe. How does it matter to them that that’s exactly why the police doesn’t take false complaints seriously, because there is someone or else ready to pay bribe to get what they want from police.
There are multiple sections in Indian Penal Code (IPC) to punish false statements, fabricated/forged evidence, perjury etc.; but rarely do such provisions are utilized to punish those abusing and misusing the judicial system. In the West, even well known celebrities and rich people have had to spend time in jail, pay fine etc. for committing perjury (Martha Stewart, Jeffrey Archer, Lance Armstrong), but all those things are never seen in India, even though Indian law is supposedly derived out of English common law and case laws, and tries to evolve and learn from best of jurisprudence followed in democratic countries like UK and US. Regular news is repeated in media about lack of courts, judges’ vacancies, but hardly no one tries to find the root causes of why there is high pendency in Indian courts – one of them being almost zero consequences for filing frivolous, false cases, or making false statements in pleadings or during evidence. Very few judges have spoken and taken action against false cases: Justice S N Dhingra (now retired) had given remarkable judgments, and recently other judges like Justice J R Midha of Delhi HC and few trial court judges have also spoken against the menace of false cases, and need for punishing such complainants.
The underlying cause why judges don’t punish, punish enough, or punish often enough for false allegations and evidence, could also be because of the legal provisions themselves. IPC and CrPC has provisions to punish these, but they are not being used in real life, so we need to analyse properly the provisions in Indian law, and maybe even compare with similar provisions in democratic countries; to arrive at what could be considered a good set of legal provisions to prevent misuse of law.
Chapter 11 of IPC: Of False Evidence and Offences Against Public Justice
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IPC Chapter XI already contains provisions for punishing false evidence, false cases etc. My first request to law commission would be to change the chapter numbers from using roman numerals like XI for 11, or XXIII for 23, because it’s much more cumbersome compared to using simple decimal numerals.
Let’s go over each section under Chapter 11 and analyse it briefly. Later I will try to search for judgments under each section to find what are the most important precedents, and if they need change or not.
Section 191: Giving false evidence
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.
- A statement is within the meaning of this section whether it is made verbally or otherwise.
- A false statement as to the belief of the person attesting is within the meaning of this section, and a person may be guilty of giving false evidence by stating that he believes a thing which he does not believe, as well as by stating that he knows a thing which he does not know.
Read remaining section including Illustrations at: http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/chapter_11.php#s191
Comments: The Illustrations (which are part of the section) mention scenarios which can be evidence either in a criminal or civil case. So this section is applicable to both criminal or civil cases.
Problems: Only those lies which are made on oath are considered as a crime under this section, so effectively it gives a wide loophole for anyone to make a false complaint, false petition/pleadings; and the accused/defendant will have to run around in police, courts, to raise a proper defence. Only after evidence stage, this section becomes useful.
Section 192: Fabricating false evidence
Whoever causes any circumstance to exist or makes any false entry in any book or record, or makes any document containing a false statement, intending that such circumstance, false entry or false statement may appear in evidence in a judicial proceeding, or in a proceeding taken by law before a public servant as such, or before an arbitrator, and that such circumstance, false entry or false statement, so appearing in evidence, may cause any person who in such proceeding is to form an opinion upon the evidence, to entertain an erroneous opinion touching any point material to the result of such proceeding is said “to fabricate false evidence”.
Read remaining section including Illustrations at: http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/chapter_11.php#s192
Comments: Again, applicable to both civil and criminal trials. E.g. if a doctor makes a false medical certificate of injuries for a false DV complainant woman, this section could be used to punish the doctor.
Problems: Prima-facie there doesn’t seem to be problem, except of course that this is something again which can be proven only after evidence/cross-exam stage; which stage may get delayed for years in Indian courts.
Section 193: Punishment for false evidence
Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any 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.
Read remaining section including Explanations: http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/chapter_11.php#s193
Comments: The explanations make it clear that a judicial proceeding includes not just trial in court, but also a process of investigation made under direction of court.
Problems: Given that the explanations describe what constitutes judicial proceeding in detail, it doesn’t include investigation by police though, so any false or fabricated evidence given to police is not covered under this section.
Section 194: Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence
Comments: This section covers cases of false or fabricated evidence which may lead to conviction of another person under a capital offence (death penalty), so being a provision for rare scenarios it can be skipped from our analysis.
Section 195: Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of offence punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment
Comments: This section covers cases of false or fabricated evidence which may lead to conviction of another person for life imprisonment, so being a provision for rare scenarios it can be skipped from our analysis.
Section 196: Using evidence known to be false
Whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use as true or genuine evidence any evidence which he knows to be false or fabricated, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave or fabricated false evidence.
Comments: This is a short and sweet section, which says that using a false evidence knowingly is as good as giving or fabricating false evidence, as far as the law and punishment is concerned.
Section 197: Issuing or signing false certificate
Whoever issues or signs any certificate required by law to be given or signed, or relating to any fact of which such certificate is by law admissible in evidence, knowing or believing that such certificate is false in any material point, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.
Comments: This could include situations where a responsible person signs and approves a certificate prepared by another official, even after knowing that it is false. Treated to be same as false evidence.
Section 198: Using as true a certificate known to be false
Whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use any such certificate as a true certificate, knowing the same to be false in any material point, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.
Comments: Extending on previous sections, this adds an offence of use or even attempt to use a false certificate, to be treated as false evidence.
Section 199: False statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence
Whoever, in any declaration made or subscribed by him, which declaration any Court of Justice, or any public servant or other person, is bound or authorized by law to receive as evidence of any fact, makes any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, touching any point material to the object for which the declaration is made or used, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.
Comments: This extends the provisions and clarifies that any kind of false declaration — presumably even if the person making declaration didn’t know how it will be used later – will be treated similar to false evidence.
Section 200: Using as true such declaration knowing it to be false
Whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use as true any such declaration, knowing the same to be false in any material point, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.
- A declaration which is inadmissible merely upon the ground of some informality, is a declaration within the meaning of sections 199 and 200.
Section 201: Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender
Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, causes any evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear, with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment, or with that intention gives any information respecting the offence which he knows or believes to be false,
…skipped clauses or capital offence and for crime punishable with imprisonment for life
if punishable with less than ten years; imprisonment – and if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for any term not extending to ten years, shall be punished with imprisonment of the description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-fourth part of the longest term of the imprisonment provided for the offence, or with fine, or with both.
Read full details at : http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/chapter_11.php#s201
Comments: This section is applicable for crimes, not for civil cases; and may be useful in certain scenarios but probably not highly relevant for dealing with false cases and allegations etc.
Section 202: Intentional omission to give information of offence by person bound to inform
Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, intentionally omits to give any information respecting that offence which he is legally bound to give, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Comments: This section is applicable for crimes, not for civil cases; and may be useful in certain scenarios but probably not highly relevant for dealing with false cases and allegations etc.
Section 203: Giving false information respecting an offence committed
Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, gives any information respecting that offence which he knows or believes to be false, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- In sections 201 and 202 and in this section the word “offence” includes any act committed at any place out of India, which, if committed in India, would be punishable under any of the following sections, namely, 302, 304, 382, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 435, 436, 449, 450, 457, 458, 459 and 460.
Comments: This section is applicable for crimes, not for civil cases; and may be useful in certain scenarios but probably not highly relevant for dealing with false cases and allegations etc. It is similar to Sec 202 but deals with actual falsification of information than just omission. Also the definition of the word offence used in Sec 201-203 is given in Explanations in this section.
Section 204: Destruction of document to prevent its production as evidence
Whoever secrets or destroys any document which he may be lawfully compelled to produce as evidence in a Court of Justice, or in any proceeding lawfully held before a public servant, as such, or obliterates or renders illegible the whole or any part of such document with the intention of preventing the same from being produced or used as evidence before such Court or public servant as aforesaid, or after he shall have been lawfully summoned or required to produce the same for that purpose, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Comments: This section is again regarding evidence and applicable for both crimes and civil cases. The practical difficulties however in using this section might be that for a document to be proven to have been destroyed or made unusable, at first one has to provide proof to the court about existence of such a document; and then provide proof that the said document has been destroyed or defaced, and finally then prove that the destruction etc. of the said document was done by the person who has filed false cases on you, or one of the accomplice. In many cases, it could be police itself who may destroy a possible evidence/document (e.g. a suicide note which could implicate someone), to shield the real accused.
Section 205: False personation for purpose of act or proceeding in suit or prosecution
Whoever falsely personates another, and in such assumed character makes any admission or statement, or confesses judgment, or causes any process to be issued or becomes bail or security, or does any other act in any suit or criminal prosecution, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Comments: This section is about impersonation, maybe not highly relevant for dealing with false cases and allegations etc., but good to be aware of.
More sections will be analyzed and added in next few days…