Wednesday, February 1, 2023

When fiction becomes truth

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Chennai judge’s remark that forgers should have their fingers chopped off sparks off a debate on retributive justice and usage of forged documents.

By Neeraj Mahajan

 In an interesting legal battle, a Chandigarh court ruled that the will of Maharaja Harinder Singh Brar, the princely ruler of Faridkot, was forged more than 30 years ago. The maharaja was allegedly suffering from depression after the death of his only son in a road accident, when the so-called will was fabricated by his lawyers and servants. None of his family members was a direct beneficiary in the forged will. Magistrate Rajnish Kumar ruled that the maharaja’s legal heirs were entitled to the 200-billion-rupee estate. One of
the richest royals, the maharaja owned several forts, palaces and prime property in Delhi and Faridkot, including a nine-hectare private aerodrome, cash and jewellery. After youngest daughter Maheepinder Kaur’s death in 2001, the elder daughters Amrit and Deepinder, who managed the Meharwal Khewaji Trust, set up under the forged will, were his legal heirs. It took 21 years for Amrit to win the case and get the
will quashed.

Ramesh Kumar Manni, who had just completed class X, was an expert in creating fake documents like vehicle registration certificates, voter cards, school and college mark sheets and so on. He serviced clients in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, charging Rs. 5,000-15,000.

Welcome to the world of cheating, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, identity theft and impersonation. Every-thing is possible, so expect the unexpected. Those involved may be strangers or people known to you. With erosion of values and morality, documents and seals are not the only fakes around. From fake and bogus university degrees to counterfeit currency, spurious medicines, false product labels, and even phony relationships, you just wonder if anything is original.

Can frauds, forgeries and such financial crimes be prevented or brought to a standstill? What should be the role of courts in deciding fraud or forgery cases? Are the Indian laws related to cheating, fraud or forgery exceptionally weak? Would India like to follow the Sharia pattern of law, based on the principle of “an eye for an eye”, and start amputating thieves, cheats and forgers?
Justice S Vaidyanathan of Chennai High Court sparked off a bitter controversy in one of his recent judgments, wherein he said that persons forging property documents deserve to have their fingers chopped off.

This invited sharp criticism from several quarters. “Are we living in medieval times where people’s hands and feet were chopped off for minor offense? The state should be reformist not retributive,” said Tilak Raj Kakkar, former Delhi Police Commissioner.

The matter arose when petitioner PM Elavarasan approached the high court, seeking a direction to Saidapet district registrar and Virugambakkam sub-registrar to release the sale deed presented by him on April 17, 2013, upon assigning a registration number.

Elavarasan’s contention was that the registering authorities did not have the power to probe ownership and title of the property and that they were obliged to return registered documents. The judge reportedly questioned the audacity of the petitioner in filing a writ petition in the high court after the registering authority had withheld the document. Does this imply that the petitioner, who is innocent unless proved guilty, has no right to file a writ petition if he has reasons to feel aggrieved?

The defendant, VVV Nachiappan, claimed that the land in Kumaran Colony belonged to him and its papers been forged by Elavarasan. Upholding the defense argument the judge expressed shock at the manner in which forged documents were allowed to be created with the connivance of officials in the sub-registrar’s office. He remarked that if the laws were rigid and deterrent, the criminals would not dare to indulge in illegal activities.

“The court could not remain a silent spectator,” the judge observed and expressed hope that courts concerned initiate criminal proceedings and award maximum sentence after a speedy trial in such cases. He felt that such persons needed to be severely dealt with. The action of the petitioner is highly deplorable and warrants heavy costs, the judge said imposing a cost of `1 lakh on the petitioner.

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  1. Hello there! This article could not be written much better!
    Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I will send
    this article to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a good read.

    Thank you for sharing!

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