Though the contract is of a civil nature, if there is an element of cheating and fraud, it is always open for a party in a contract, to prosecute the other side for the offences alleged. In S.W. Palanitkar v. State of Bihar, (2002) 1 SCC 241 it was held that every breach of contract may not result in a penal offence, but in the very same judgments, it was further held that breach of trust with mens rea gives rise to a criminal prosecution as well. In a given case, whether there is any mens rea on the part of the accused or not is a matter which is required to be considered having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case and contents of the complaint etc. In Anil Mahajan v. Bhor Industries Ltd., (2005) 10 SCC 228, it has been held that where there exists a fraudulent and dishonest intention at the time of the commission of the offence, law permits the victim to proceed against the wrongdoer for having committed an offence of criminal breach of trust or cheating. D R Lakshman v. State of Karnataka, (2019) 9 SCC 677.
Tag Archives: Breach of Trust
In Rashmi Jain v. State of U.P., 2014 (1) SCALE 415, the court said that mere failure of a person to keep up promise subsequently, a culpable intention right at the beginning, i.e., when he made the promises cannot be presumed. A distinction has to be kept in mind between mere breach of contract and the offence of cheating. It depends upon the intention of the accused at the time of inducement. The subsequent conduct is not the sole test. Mere breach of contract cannot give rise to criminal prosecution for cheating unless fraudulent, dishonest intention is shown at the beginning of the transaction.
In Vesa Holdings Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Kerala, 2015 CRLJ 2455 the court held that every breach of contract would not give rise to an offence of cheating and only in those cases breach of contract would amount to cheating where there was any deception played at the very inception. If the intention to cheat has developed later on, the same cannot amount to cheating. In other words, for the purpose of constituting an offence of cheating, the complainant is required to show that the accused had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making promise. Even in a case where allegations are made in regard to failure on the part of the accused to keep his promise, in the absence of a culpable intention at the time of making initial promise being absent, no offence under Section 420 IPC can be said to have been made out. Suneel Galgotia v. State of U.P., 2016 (92) ACC 40.
It has been held in Onkar Nath Mishra v. State, (2008) 2 SCC 561, that in the commission of the offence of criminal breach of trust, two distinct parts are involved. The first consists of the creation of an obligation in relation to the property over which dominion or control is acquired by the accused. The second is misappropriation or dealing with the property dishonestly and contrary to the terms of the obligation created.
It has been held in Jaikrishnadas Manohardas Desai v. State of Bombay, AIR 1960 SC 889, that :
“to establish a charge of criminal breach of trust, the prosecution is not obliged to prove the precise mode of conversion, misappropriation or misapplication by the accused of the property entrusted to him or over which he has dominion. The principal ingredient of the offence being dishonest misappropriation or conversion which may not ordinarily be a matter of direct proof, entrustment of property and failure in breach of an obligation to account for the property entrusted, if proved, may in the light of other circumstances, justifiably lead to an inference of dishonest misappropriation or conversion. Conviction of a person for the offence of criminal breach of trust may not, in all cases, be founded merely on his failure to account for the property entrusted to him, but where he is unable to account or renders an explanation for his failure to account which is untrue, an inference of misappropriation with dishonest intent may readily be made.” Ghanshyam v. State of Rajasthan, (2014) 4 SCC (Cri) 82.