A land owner cannot file a cheating case under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against an individual accused of selling the property to a third party by claiming it to be his own, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.

Dismissing a criminal revision petition filed by a land owner, Justice P.R. Shivakumar held that only the purchaser could lodge a complaint claiming to have been cheated and even that would not be possible if the purchaser had colluded with the accused.

“If ‘A' falsely claims a property to be his, even knowing fully well that he is not the owner of that property, and executes a conveyance in favour of ‘C,' whereas the real owner happens to be ‘B,' it can never be said that B has been cheated.

“Such an execution of conveyance may amount to cheating of ‘C' if he is not aware of the absence of title in ‘A' or absence of authority given to ‘A' by ‘B.' Otherwise, ‘A' cannot be said to have made a false document or committed an act of forgery,” the judge said.

In the present case, Habib Rehman of Kulasekarapattinam in Tuticorin district had lodged a private complaint before a lower court accusing some of his relatives of selling a piece of land, in which he had half a share, to a third party.

He had sought a direction to the police to register a case against his relatives as well as the purchaser under Sections 415 (cheating), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 464 (making a false document) and 468 (forgery) of IPC.

The complaint was forwarded to the police who after investigation filed a negative report in the court stating that it was only a civil dispute.

Accepting the submission, the lower court dismissed the case and hence the present revision case.

Not finding any infirmity in the lower court's decision, Mr. Justice Shivakumar said that a mere allegation that the petitioner's relatives sold the property by claiming sole ownership would not attract any of the penal provisions sought to be invoked by the petitioner.