6 Oct 2010

Fraud vitiates all: The law revisited

Common law principles are largely based upon equitable doctrines. Some of these doctrines have become the core foundations of justice dispensation system in jurisdictions which have adopted these common law concepts. We had the occasion to earlier write upon the doctrine that one much approach the court with clean hands and that lack of truth in litigation was not appreciable. We bring to you the law relating to a related concept that 'fraud vitiates all' which is deeply embedded in the common law tradition which India follows.

The Supreme Court of India in a recent decision [Meghmala v. G. Narasimha Reddy] explained the concept in the following terms;
20. It is settled proposition of law that where an applicant gets an order/office by making misrepresentation or playing fraud upon the competent Authority, such order cannot be sustained in the eyes of law. “Fraud avoids all judicial acts ecclesiastical or temporal.” (Vide S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu (dead) by L.Rs. Vs. Jagannath (dead) by L.Rs. & Ors. AIR 1994 SC 853). In Lazarus Estate Ltd. Vs. Besalay 1956 All. E.R. 349), the Court observed without equivocation that “no judgment of a Court, no order of a Minister can be allowed to stand if it has been obtained by fraud, for fraud unravels everything.”
21. In Andhra Pradesh State Financial Corporation Vs. M/s. GAR Re-Rolling Mills & Anr. AIR 1994 SC 2151; and State of Maharashtra & Ors. Vs. Prabhu (1994) 2 SCC 481. this Court observed that a writ Court, while exercising its equitable jurisdiction, should not act as to prevent perpetration of a legal fraud as the courts are obliged to do justice by promotion of good faith. “Equity is, also, known to prevent the law from the crafty evasions and sub-letties invented to evade law.”
22. In Smt. Shrisht Dhawan Vs. M/s. Shaw Brothers. AIR 1992 SC 1555, it has been held as under:–
“Fraud and collusion vitiate even the most solemn proceedings in any civilised system of jurisprudence. It is a concept descriptive of human conduct.”
23. In United India Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Rajendra Singh & Ors. AIR 2000 SC 1165, this Court observed that “Fraud and justice never dwell together” (fraus et jus nunquam cohabitant) and it is a pristine maxim which has never lost its temper over all these centuries. 
24. The ratio laid down by this Court in various cases is that dishonesty should not be permitted to bear the fruit and benefit to the persons who played fraud or made misrepresentation and in such circumstances the Court should not perpetuate the fraud. (See District Collector & Chairman, Vizianagaram Social Welfare Residential School Society, Vizianagaram & Anr. Vs. M. Tripura Sundari Devi (1990) 3 SCC 655; Union of India & Ors. Vs. M. Bhaskaran (1995) Suppl. 4 SCC 100; Vice Chairman, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan & Anr. Vs. Girdharilal Yadav (2004) 6 SCC 325; State of Maharashtra v. Ravi Prakash Babulalsing Parmar (2007) 1 SCC 80; Himadri Chemicals Industries Ltd. Vs. Coal Tar Refining Company AIR 2007 SC 2798; and Mohammed Ibrahim & Ors. Vs. State of Bihar & Anr. (2009) 8 SCC 751).
25. Fraud is an intrinsic, collateral act, and fraud of an egregious nature would vitiate the most solemn proceedings of courts of justice. Fraud is an act of deliberate deception with a design to secure something, which is otherwise not due. The expression “fraud” involves two elements, deceit and injury to the person deceived. It is a cheating intended to get an advantage. (Vide Dr. Vimla Vs. Delhi Administration AIR 1963 SC 1572; Indian Bank Vs. Satyam Fibres (India) Pvt. Ltd. (1996) 5 SCC 550; State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. T. Suryachandra Rao AIR 2005 SC 3110; K.D. Sharma Vs. Steel Authority of India Ltd. & Ors. (2008) 12 SCC 481; and Regional Manager, Central Bank of India Vs. Madhulika Guruprasad Dahir & Ors. (2008) 13 SCC 170).
26. An act of fraud on court is always viewed seriously. A collusion or conspiracy with a view to deprive the rights of the others in relation to a property would render the transaction void ab initio. Fraud and deception are synonymous. Although in a given case a deception may not amount to fraud, fraud is anathema to all equitable principles and any affair tainted with fraud cannot be perpetuated or saved by the application of any equitable doctrine including res judicata. Fraud is proved when it is shown that a false representation has been made (i) knowingly, or (ii) without belief in its truth, or (iii) recklessly, careless whether it be true or false. Suppression of a material document would also amount to a fraud on the court. (Vide S.P. Changalvaraya Naidu (supra); Gowrishankar & Anr. Vs. Joshi Amba Shankar Family Trust & Ors. AIR 1996 SC 2202; Ram Chandra Singh Vs. Savitri Devi & Ors. (2003) 8 SCC 319; Roshan Deen Vs. Preeti Lal AIR 2002 SC 33; Ram Preeti Yadav Vs. U.P. Board of High School & Intermediate Education AIR 2003 SC 4628; and Ashok Leyland Ltd. Vs. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr. AIR 2004 SC 2836). 
27. In kinch Vs. Walcott (1929) AC 482, it has been held that “….mere constructive fraud is not, at all events after long delay, sufficient but such a judgment will not be set aside upon mere proof that the judgment was obtained y perjury.” Thus, detection/discovery of constructive fraud at a much belated stage may not be sufficient to set aside the judgment procured by perjury.
28. From the above, it is evident that even in judicial proceedings, once a fraud is proved, all advantages gained by playing fraud can be taken away. In such an eventuality the questions of non-executing of the statutory remedies or statutory bars like doctrine of res judicata are not attracted. Suppression of any material fact/document amounts to a fraud on the court. Every court has an inherent power to recall its own order obtained by fraud as the order so obtained is non est.

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