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Counterfeiting the Indian Coins and Government Stamps

The term offence is defined as a thing which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 ('the Code') or any other special or local law. This includes both, an illegal act or illegal omission. Though the term ‘offence' is often used in substitute for the term ‘crime' but only those crimes are offences which are codified and defined in the Indian Penal Law or any other special legislation.

Thus, the Code is a bundle constituting definitions and punishments of several offences. It defines and prescribes punishments for offences against property and the human body in person or public at large. For example, criminal conspiracy, murder, theft, cheating, forgery, and alike.

In these streaks of offences which the Code defines and prescribes punishment for, it includes the various offences relating to the coins and government stamps. The Code further provides more deterrent punishments in cases of offences relating to the Indian coins which is a prime subject of focus in this study. The author, herein, discusses what are the various acts related to counterfeiting the Indian coins and the government stamps which are punishable under the Code.

II. Indian coin: Meaning and Characteristics

A coin is usually a piece of metal or alloy primarily used as a medium of exchange or legal tender. Standardized in weight and in composition, they are used to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government of the sovereign.

The Code defines the Indian coin as ‘metal stamped and issued by the authority of the Government of India in order to be used as money; and metal which has been so stamped and issued shall continue to be Indian coin for the purposes of this Chapter, notwithstanding that it may have ceased to be used as money'.[1] Thus, a metal which is not used as money is not coin.[2]

Thus, the chief characteristics of the Indian coin which flows out of this definition are:
  1. It must be made up of metal.
  2. Be stamped.
  3. It must be issued by the authority of the Government of India.
  4. Must be issued for the purpose of it being used as money.
  5. Need not be current or be used as money.

III. Counterfeiting Indian Coin

According to Section 28 of the Code ‘A person is said to counterfeit who causes one thing to resemble another thing, intending by means of that resemblance to practice deception, or knowing it to be likely that deception will thereby be practiced'. Further, the explanations elucidate that resemblance of the counterfeited Indian Coin need not be exact and the intention of the person involved in such an act can be presumed to exist until proved otherwise.

In State of Uttar Pradesh v HM Ismail[3] it was laid that it is sufficient of the counterfeit coin being in close resemblance to the genuine one and is capable of being circulated as such. Section 232 of the Code punishes a person who counterfeits or knowingly performs a part of counterfeiting the Indian coin with imprisonment with life or to the extent of ten years with fine.[4] This section prescribes punishment for both the persons, namely, who individually commit offence or who takes part in the commission of the offence of counterfeiting the Indian coin.

Further, mere intention to deceive or knowledge of practicing deception is sufficient for the offence of counterfeiting and not the actual dishonesty and fraud. Intention or the knowledge forms the gist of the offence, inferred from the closeness of imitation. Thus, it is not the mere act of deception sufficient to lead the commission of this offence but deception with intention or knowledge to deceive. It is not necessary under this section that the counterfeit coins should be made with the primary intention of its being passed as genuine. It is sufficient that the resemblance to genuine coin be so close that the counterfeit is capable of being passed as such.[5]

IV. Acts of counterfeiting: Punishable under the Code

The Code punishes the act of counterfeiting in several forms like making or selling counterfeit coins, preparation thereof, possession of the instruments or material for use of for counterfeit coins or possession with intent to deceive or knowledge of deception likely of being practiced; importing and exporting such Indian coins; and, essentially, the act of delivering the counterfeit coins to other persons with knowledge or intention of same being counterfeit.

Making or selling of die or instrument for counterfeiting coins
Section 234 of the Code, punishes the act of making or altering in whole or a part thereof; buying, selling or disposing any die or instrument for the purpose of being used, or having knowledge or reason to believe of intention for such use, for the purpose of counterfeiting the Indian coin, with imprisonment extending to 7 years with fine.[6]

Possession of Instrument or material for counterfeiting Indian Coin
Any person in possession of the instrument or material with the intention knowledge or reason to believe of same being used for counterfeiting the Indian coin is exposed to the punishment to a term extending to 10 years with fine.[7]

Thus, section 234 and 235 of the Code makes mere acts of preparation of counterfeiting the Indian coins as punishable. Further, the possession, for the purpose of counterfeiting is punishable under this section and not when someone is merely in possession.[8]

Possession implies conscious and intentional retention of such object[9] and therefore mere possession does not amount to offence unless the prosecution proves that the accused intended to use such object for the purpose of counterfeiting the Indian coin.[10]

Import or export of counterfeit Indian coin
Section 238 of the Code provides that whoever knowingly or with reason to believe imports into or exports from India, shall be punished with imprisonment extending to the term of 10 years.[11]

Possession of Counterfeit Coins
Section 243 of the Code punishes for possession of any counterfeit Indian coin by a person who at the time, became possessed knew of same being counterfeit and may be used to defraud someone, is liable to be subjected to the imprisonment not exceeding 7 years with fine. This implies that a person who became possessed of the counterfeit coin without the knowledge and after that continues such possession to pass same to other cannot be held liable as he had no knowledge of its spuriousness at that time.[12] His possession is not criminal.

Possession must be gained with intent to defraud:
  1. Getting possession with knowledge
    Whoever gets in possession of counterfeit Indian coin with the knowledge of same and fraudulently or with the intent that fraud may be committed delivers or attempts to induce any person to receive it, can be subject to the imprisonment extending to 10 years with fine.[13]
  2. Getting possession without knowledge of counterfeit
    Any person getting in possession of any counterfeit coins without the knowledge of same being counterfeit and tries to deliver or induce to receive same by another person as genuine shall be liable to the imprisonment of extending 2 years or fine extending to 10 times of the counterfeited Indian coins value, or with both.[14]

Alteration of coin
Any person who with the dishonest intention performs any act which diminishes the weight or alters the composition of any Indian coin shall be punished with imprisonment for not exceeding 7 years but with fine.[15] Further, act molding the appearance of the coin with intent to pass the same as of different description, is liable for imprisonment with either description for a term with it not exceeding 7 years with fine.[16] Again, section 251 of the Code punishes a person who with knowledge gets in possession of such Indian coins to defraud, delivers or attempts to induce the person to receive the delivery with imprisonment not exceeding 10 years with fine.[17]

It is similar to the provisions regarding possession and delivery of counterfeit Indian coins. The possession and delivery of altered coins is also punishable where the person gets in possession which knowledge of such coin being altered in weight, composition or in appearance and delivers as genuine or attempts induce another person to receive such altered coin. Punishment in case of possession extends to 5 years[18] with a fine while to 10 years in case of delivering such altered coins. However, it is here again necessary that person possessing such altered coin knew of same being altered and not otherwise.

Also, the person receiving possession of such Indian coin without knowledge of it being altered, delivers with intention or knowledge of committing or trying to commit fraud is punishable with imprisonment not exceeding 2 years but with fine extending to ten times of the value of coin being passed or being attempted to be passed[19] and mere possession does not make him subject to criminal act as stated earlier. A person who knowingly purchases spurious coins or altered coins for collection is not subjecting himself to any criminal act as he intends to defraud none.

V. Counterfeiting the government stamps

Section 255-263 of the Code prescribes the features and punishment for offences relating to Government Stamp. ‘These stamps are impressions upon paper, parchment, or any other material used for writing and are sold for the purpose of revenue'.[20]

Presence of intention or having knowledge are essential for the commission of the offence of counterfeiting the Indian coin or be it Government stamps. Thus, Section 255 of the Code lays down that if a person knowingly counterfeits or performs a part of the whole act of counterfeiting any stamp issued by the Indian Government for the purpose of revenue is liable to be punished. In case if such person is sole counterfeiter he is liable to be punished with life imprisonment and if he takes part in such process he is liable to be punished with imprisonment extending to 10 years with fine. Such a person commits such offence when he causes a genuine stamp of one denomination to appear like a genuine stamp of a different denomination.

Section 256 of the Code punishes a person in the very dormant stage of the offence too. It punishes a person who with the knowledge or with reason to believe possesses an instrument or material to be used for the purpose of counterfeiting Government stamp. Further, the Code also punishes any active act of making or selling instrument[21] to be used for counterfeiting Government stamp with imprisonment which may extend maximum to 7 years with fine, same as for having possession of such instrument.

Similarly, other than possessing, making or selling instruments and material of counterfeiting, the Code also punishes sale or offer of sale[22] and having possession of actual counterfeited stamp with imprisonment not exceeding 7 years with fine.[23] Similar are consequences wherein a person having possession, intends to use the same or dispose of the same as a genuine stamp for the possible purpose of being used as a genuine stamp.[24] Also, the person has prior knowledge of its veracity. It is the intention to fraud which makes offence and not mere possession.

Section 261 of the Code punishes the act of erasing any substance with intent to defraud or cause loss to the government, from any government writing or document bearing the government's stamp issued for the purpose of revenue. Also removing of such used stamp from a document and intends to use it for different writing or document, shall be punished with same punishment of imprisonment of either description for a term not extending to three years, or with a fine, or with both.

Also, the Code punishes a person when he uses already used Government stamp for any purpose fraudulently or with intent to cause loss to the government.[25] Such issuance shall be for the purpose of revenue to the government. Additionally, the act of erasing any mark or impression denoting that such stamp is already used is punishable. Possession with knowledge, selling or disposing such stamp is also punishable with imprisonment of term not exceeding 3 years or fine or with both.

Fictitious stamp[26] includes all stamps being falsely purported to be issued by the government or any copy, imitation or representation, on paper or otherwise, of any stamp issued by the Government of such purpose. Thus, finally, section 263-A of the Code prohibits willful dealings and selling of fictitious stamps, its use for any postal purpose, its possession without lawful excuse. It further punishes making or possessing die, plate, instrument or materials for making of such fictitious stamp. The punishment under this section may extend to a fine of two hundred rupees and seization and forfeiture of such instruments or materials.

Thus, after above insight in the meaning of counterfeiting Indian coin and counterfeiting Government stamp, with essentials and characteristic of the two offences it can be easily drawn out that means rea or mental intent is crucial for the commission of the offence of counterfeiting. It is the crux for making any person liable for any of the offence. Further, as thought and assumed that the acts relating to counterfeiting which are punishable is wrong and in reality it covers several offences and also punishes for several acts at the preparatory stage.

The law punishes the making of instruments and material to be used for counterfeiting the Indian coin. Also, IPC prescribes stringent punishments for any act of counterfeiting which importantly shows the necessity for barring any act of counterfeiting the Indian coins and Government stamps.

The chapter of coins and government stamp holds its exclusive importance and helps in containing the frauds relating to the medium of exchange i.e. coins and stops persons from making undue advantage by fraudulent activities.

  1. Section 230, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  2. R. v Kunj Beharee, (1873) 5 NWPR 187.
  3. State of Uttar Pradesh v HM Ismail, AIR 1960 SC 669.
  4. Section 232, Indian Penal Code, 1860. AIR 1960 SC 669.
  5. R. v. Qudir Baksh, ILR [1907] 30 All 93.
  6. Section 234, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  7. Section 235, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  8. Zamir Hussain v Crown AIR 1950 Lah 97.
  9. King Emperor v Hari Maniram Sonar (1904) Cr LJ 960.
  10. Khadim Hussain v Emporer AIR 1925 Lah 22.
  11. Section 238, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  12. Section 240, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  13. Section 234, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  14. Kashi Prasad v State of Utter Pradesh, AIR 1950 ALL 732.
  15. Section 247, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  16. Section 249, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  17. Section 251, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  18. Section 253, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  19. Section 254, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  20. PSA Pillai, Criminal Law (12th Edition), p. 524.
  21. Section 257, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  22. Section 258, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  23. Section 259, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  24. Raghavan Law of Crimes, (3rd Edition, 1984) pp. 545-546.
  25. Section 262, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  26. Section 263-A(3), Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Written By: Pareekshit Bishnoi, is an advocate based in Delhi with appearances before different Courts and Tribunals.   

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