Cheating is that offence which is understood even by a layman. Often people use the term ‘cheating’ whereby they mean something to be deceitful or fraudulent. Cheating is considered as a wrong act when done, even in some of the trivial issues. Section 415 of IPC (India Penal Code), 1860 defines ‘Cheating’ and this article would be discussing the legal definition and legal aspect of the offence of cheating.
Section 415 – Cheating
Cheating is defined under Chapter XVII which deals with ‘Offences against Property‘ under Section 415 as follows-
Cheating.—Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to “cheat”.
Explanation.—A dishonest concealment of facts is a deception within the meaning of this section.
From the above-mentioned definition, some of the basic elements of cheating are as follows-
The act should either be fraudulent or dishonest to be termed as under the offence of cheating. The term ‘fraudulently’ is defined under Section 25 of the IPC.
“A person is said to do a thing fraudulently if he does that thing with intent to defraud but not otherwise.”
The intention of the wrongdoer in every criminal offence is of great importance. Therefore, in cheating, also the person who commits the offence should act dishonestly. The term ‘dishonesty’ is defined under Section 24 of the IPC.
“Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing “dishonestly”.
Section 415 comes under Chapter XVII, which makes the offence of Cheating that is committed against property.
The accused must deceive the person in such a way that he is induced to deliver any property or gives consent to the accused to retain a property that he posses. Also, it is very important to note down here that the deception should be with a dishonest or fraudulent intention.
All the elements of cheating specified under Section 415 should be connected to each other in order to make an offence of cheating.
As per the Supreme Court very clearly held that the crux of the offence of cheating is the intention of the person who induces the victim of his representation. The nature of the transaction is irrelevant, which would become decisive in discerning whether there was the commission of an offence or not.
The Supreme Court in a case held that in order to convict a person under the offence of cheating there should be the pre-existing fraudulent or dishonest intention of the accused from the beginning whereas in case of breach of contract the dishonest intention is generally not present at the beginning of the agreement. 
Punishment of Cheating
Cheating is punishable under section 417, and the punishment for cheating is imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both. Imprisonment depends upon the cheating and quantum of the act. If the act is grave, imprisonment and fine, both can be awarded. Whereas, when the act committed is not grave imprisonment is generally not imposed.
Difference between Cheating and Fraud
The offence of cheating and fraud are almost similar, and therefore, sometimes there is confusion between the two. It is very important to know the differences between the two.
- The offence of Cheating is mentioned under section 415-420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, whereas, fraud is mentioned under 421-424 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Usually, cheating is committed to obtaining some advantage from a person. Fraud is committed to gain an advantage by another’s loss.
- Fraud basically is confined to contract cases, but cheating has a wide ambit.
The offence of Cheating, which is very common, includes two main elements, that is deception and inducement. Sometimes cheating is confused with fraud or other civil or criminal offence, but it differs from all of them in one way or the other. Therefore, the conceptual understanding of the offence of cheating becomes very important. Apart from section 415, another section related to cheating are also important.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s. 415.
 Indian Penal Code,1860, s. 25.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860, s. 24.
 A. Pareed Pillai v State (1973) SC 326.
 Rajesh Bajaj v. NCT of Delhi and Ors. (1999) SC 1216.
 S.W. Palanitkar V. State of Bihar 2001(10) TMI 1150.
 Indian Penal Code, s. 417.