Forgery in relation to property is one of the methods of committing an illegal sale. Instances of forgery being committed by an individual or a builder or promoter are very common, indicating the widespread nature of this crime across India. Property forgery may be committed due to many reasons some of them being taking a loan, purchasing or selling any property, and having the illegal possession of a property. Such situations may arise if one does not take proper due diligence and may continue to occur if not reported in the first instance. With this thought in mind, the article discusses the procedure to follow in case one’s property documents get forged and how to prevent the same in the first place. Read on!
The Real Estate (Regulation And Development) Act, 2016
One of the main objectives of RERA#1 is to protect the interest of consumers in the real estate sector and to establish an adjudicating mechanism for speedy dispute redressal, along with setting a mechanism for allowing appeals. In furtherance of this objective, the Act provides for the mandatory registration of the real estate project with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority by promoter#2 and the process regarding the application to be filed with relevant documents attached for that purpose#3, mandatory registration of real estate agents#4 and the functions required to be performed by them #5 and the promoter.#6
Obligations of the promoter regarding the integrity of the advertisement or prospectus are also provided under the statute which also mandates the promoter to execute a registered conveyance deed in favour of the allottee along with the undivided proportionate title in the common areas. Further, it is mandated that the promoter handovers the necessary documents and plans, including common areas to allottees after obtaining the occupancy certificate and handing over physical possession of the property to them.#7 For violation of all these and other related provisions, the penalty and punishment (wherever applicable) have also been specified under the Act.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Under the IPC,#8 a property forger, depending on a particular case, is liable for his crime under Sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of documents), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using a forged document as a genuine one).
The Indian Contract Act, of 1872
There may be a case where a builder after taking part of the payment for a property, says there was a typographical error in the rates and the actual rates were much higher. For cases like these, a buyer can take a resort under the Indian Contract Act, of 1872 for making the agreement void.#9 The relevant provisions, depending on the particular case, could be Sections 17 (fraud), 18 (misrepresentation), 19 (voidability of agreements without free consent), 19A (Power to set aside contract induced by undue influence), 20 (Agreement void where both parties are under mistake as to a matter of fact).
How/Where To File A Complaint
A complaint under RERA can be filed against promoters, buyers, or agents under Section 31 of the Act. Below mentioned steps can be followed to complete the process of filing a complaint:
A RERA lawyer may be found with whose help a complaint can be filed under the appropriate jurisdiction before the Real Estate Regulatory Authority or the adjudicating officer, as the case may be.
The complaint must be filed as per the rules prescribed by the concerned state in which the project is situated.
The complaint must include all the relevant information such as
Details of the applicant and the respondent
Address and registration number of the project
A brief statement of the facts as well as the grounds of the claim
The relief(s) and/or interim relief(s) sought (if any)
The relevant fee must be paid as per the requirement of particular state rules.
Alternatively, a complaint can be filed on the RERA website of the respective states. All that one is required to do is to enter the required details like your personal details, respondent details, and nature of the complaint with relevant documents. After filling in all the details, the processing fee is required to be paid.
The complaint can approach the Appellate Tribunal within 60 days, in case of dissatisfaction with the decision made by RERA.
The complaint can further approach the High Court within 60 days, in case of dissatisfaction with the decision of the Appellate Tribunal.
In case of forged signatures and photographs or forged power of attorney, a declaratory suit must be filed by the owner or his heirs stating that he is the absolute owner of the said property and that the fraudulent sales agreement should not be considered. It must further be declared that any fraudulent sales-related agreement if shown, must not be considered under any circumstances.
All the points like forgery, fabrication of the documents, and the case of cheating (as the case may be) must be clearly stated in the complaint.
If a fraudster tries to establish his rights over a property, it becomes important to lodge a complaint on grounds of impersonation.
In certain cases, the owner may also publish a warning in the newspaper declaring that the original owner of the property has learned about the fraud or crime and is not aware of any transactions that may have occurred.
The offences and penalties under RERA are given under Sections 59 to 72. The penalty for a promoter providing false information or contravening Section 4 can be a maximum of up to five per cent of the estimated cost of the real estate project, as determined by the relevant authority.#10 For non-registration and contravention of Sections 9 and 10, the real estate agent is liable for a minimum penalty of ten thousand rupees every day during which such default continues. #11
Section 18 provides that the promoter has an obligation to return the amount along with interest including compensation (on the demand of the allottee) in case he fails to complete or is unable to give possession of an apartment, plot, or building either according to the terms of the agreement for sale or due to discontinuance of his business as a developer for any reason. Further, in case of any loss caused to the allottee due to defective title of the land by the promoter or/and if the promoter fails to discharge any other obligations imposed on him by virtue of RERA, he is liable to pay compensation to the allottee(s).
Sections 63 to 68 put a penalty on promoters, real estate agents, and allottees in case any of them fails to comply with the orders of authority or of the appellate tribunal. For contravention of any other provisions of the act by the promoter, such as Section 17, the penalty may extend up to five per cent of the estimated cost of the real estate project as determined by the Authority. Also, in case a default or crime is committed by the company, all persons at the helm of affairs of the Company (Managing director, directors, and officers) who are directly responsible for the default are considered guilty and dealt with accordingly.
How To Report It To The Police
The complaint must be filed at the immediate police station located in the jurisdiction of the property. One must also send a written letter to the inspector-general of registration and the sub-registrar explaining to them the entire situation and bringing the matter to their notice.
Section 59 of the RERA provides the punishment for non-registration under Section 3, which is imprisonment extendable up to three years or with a fine that may extend up to a further ten per cent of the estimated cost of the real estate project or with both. Further, the relevant provisions of IPC provide for imprisonment extendable up to seven years and a fine under Sections 420 and 468, imprisonment extendable up to ten years, and a fine under Section 467.
What Precautions To Be Taken
The following precautions can be taken to prevent property forgery:
Before entering into a property deal, the agent must be asked to provide his registration number, which is usually valid for a limited period.
It is important for an owner to maintain the physical property of his property and keep it safe. The original legal documents must also be kept safe.
Taking a home loan to buy a property could be a preferable option since it could act as a safety check on whether the property is a legally cleared property and has all the necessary documents.
There are many tricks to make one’s signature forgery-proof which can be resorted to, such as writing in connected strokes, making an artistic signature, avoiding abbreviations, etc.
The power of attorney must be verified by the owner whose name is mentioned in the property papers. A registered PoA is always considered safer than a simple notarized PoA.
If the owner/seller claims that the original documents have been lost, an affidavit must be obtained by him stating the same and that the documents being traced will be handed over to the purchaser.
How To Know If Property Papers Are Forged
The forgers usually falsify the property’s documentation for claiming ownership of the property. In such cases, it may get difficult to differentiate original documents from forged ones. To do so, the following steps can be followed:
Before buying any property, it should always be checked whether the original sale deed has been registered, and also get it examined by a lawyer. Further, one must not rely on photocopies.
To check whether the property papers are forged, one must apply for the encumbrance certificate from the sub-registrar's office, which displays the property’s true owner’s name.
A property whose documents are already forged may be sold to another party and it may be a disputed property. Thus, one must also conduct an online litigation search at the e-courts website,
One must also obtain photocopies of the seller's PAN card and voter ID and get them verified.
Properties can also be sold based on fake legal heirship certificates. Thus, one must check the succession as well as the death certificate and cross-verify it either online or with the records of the issuing authority.
Following certain steps before buying a property or engaging in any property-related transaction may help in ensuring that the concerned property is not forged and legally cleared. In case one becomes the victim of property forgery, it is important to file a complaint as soon as one becomes aware of it and follows all the necessary steps. At last, remaining cautious at all times when dealing with property matters is certainly important.
The Real Estate (Regulation And Development) Act, 2016, No. 16, Acts of Parliament, 2016 (India).
 Section 4
 Section 9
 Section 11
 Section 17
The Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Acts Of Parliament, 1860.
 The Indian Contract Act, 1872, No. 9, Acts Of Parliament, 1872.
 Section 60
 Section 62