Fraud v. Misrepresentation

A perusal of the definition of the word ‘fraud’, as defined in Section 17 of The Indian Contract Act, 1872 would reveal that the concept of fraud is very wide. It includes any suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by a person who does or does not believe it to be true. It may be contrasted with Section 18(1) of The Indian Contract Act, 1872 which, inter alia, defines ‘misrepresentation’. It provides that it is misrepresentation if a positive assertion is made by a person of that which is not true in a manner which is not warranted by the information he has. This is despite the fact that he may believe it to be true. In other words, in fraud, the person who makes an untruthful suggestion, does not himself believe it to be true. He knows it to be not true, yet he makes a suggestion of the fact as if it were true. In misrepresentation, on the other hand, the person making misrepresentation believes it to be true. But the law declares it to be misrepresentation on the basis of information which he had and what he believed to be true was not true. Therefore, the representation made by him becomes a misrepresentation as it is a statement which is found to be untrue. Fraud is committed if a person actively conceals a fact, who either knows about the fact or believes in the existence of the fact. The concealment must be active. It is here that mere silence has been explained in the ‘exception’ which would affect the decision of a person who enters into a contract to be not fraud unless the circumstances are such that it becomes his duty to speak. His silence itself may amount to speech. A person may make a promise without having any intention to perform it. It is fraud. The law further declares that any other act fitted to deceive, is fraud. So also, any act or omission, which the law declares to be fraudulent, amounts to fraud. Running as a golden trend however and as a requirement of law through the various limbs of Section 17 is the element of deceit. A person who stands accused of fraud be it in a civil or criminal action, must entertain an intention to commit deception. Deception can embrace various forms and it is a matter to be judged on the facts of each case.”

Hon’ble Justice K.M. Joseph, Electrical Rengali Hydro Electric Project, Orissa v. Giridhari Sahu, [Civil Appeal No. 8071 of 2010].

Fraud