Section 191 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!

There are two explanations given in the section the first of which states that a statement under this section may be verbal or any other kind of statement. According to the second explanation, a false statement as to the belief of the person attesting is covered by this section, and, therefore, a person is guilty of giving false evidence where he states that he believes something which he actually does not believe, or where he states that he knows something which actually he does not know.

The section requires that the person against whom a charge of giving false evidence is made must be legally bound to state the truth either by an oath or by an express provision of law, or he must be bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject. The statement made must be a false statement, and the maker of the statement must either know it to be false, or must believe it to be false, or does not believe it to be true. It is not necessary that the false statement made must have any bearing upon the matter in issue.


According to section 51 of the Code, the word ‘oath’ includes a solemn affirmation substituted by law for an oath, and any declaration required or authorised by law to be made before a public servant or to be used for the purpose of proof, whether in .a court of justice or not.

As is clear, the definition is not an exhaustive one but is an inclusive definition. Section 8, Oaths Act, 1969 requires that every person giving evidence on any subject before any court is bound to state the truth. The Calcutta High Court is of the opinion that the offence of giving false evidence may be committed even though the person giving evidence has neither been sworn nor affirmed. But the Allahabad High Court does not subscribe to this view.

In Advocate General, High Court of Karnataka v. Chidambara, there was an application to dismiss the order on a compromise petition allegedly signed by the impersonating respondents instead of the real respondents in a writ appeal. There was an admission by the accused on oath that some persons had impersonated the real contesting respondents in the writ appeal.

Subsequently, however, in suo motu proceedings for contempt of court, the accused stated that he had given a false statement in the course of those proceedings when his sworn statement was being recorded. The Karnataka High Court held that the act of the accused amounted to commission of the offence of giving false evidence.


If a matter is being heard by a court which has no jurisdiction to hear the same, false statement made during the course of such proceedings does not attract section 191 of the Code.

Express provision of law

Where one is bound by an express provision of law to state the truth, even though he is not bound by an oath, making a false statement makes him liable. Express provision of law may be any law which specifically binds a person to state the truth. The Supreme Court has held in Ranjit Singh v. State, that a person who is bound by an express statement through a false affidavit in the court, is guilty of giving false evidence.

Declaration upon any subject

This section is applicable when one is bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject and makes a false statement as stated in the section. The expression ‘any subject’ has been used in the sense of that subject on which one is bound by law to make a declaration. It does not mean any subject which has absolutely no connection with the case concerned. The law sometimes requires a declaration to be made with respect to a matter and in such a case a false declaration will make one liable if other requirements of the section are met.

Knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true

The accused must know the statement to be false or he must believe it to be false or he must not believe it to be true. Swearing at a fact without knowing at the time whether it is true or false will make him liable when the statement in fact is false.

Two contradictory statements

When a person makes two contradictory statements one of these is bound to be false. But that in itself does not make him liable. The prosecution has the responsibility to establish positively as to which of them is false before he can be held guilty of the same. This seems to be the view in England. But in India, illustration (c) of section 221, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says—’A states on oath before the magistrate that he saw  hit Ñ with a club. Before the sessions court A states on oath that  never hit C. A may be charged in the alternative and convicted of intentionally giving false evidence, although it cannot be proved which of these contradictory statement was false’.

Thus, where a person makes on statement under section 164, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and another diametrically opposite one in court during inquiry or trial, he could be charged for giving false evidence. But the Supreme Court has held in Ramchandran v. State, and Balak Ram v. State, and the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of In re B. Arjunappa that such evidence must be approached with caution in view of the fact that the accused feels tied to his previous statement under section 164.

Illegality of a trial

The Calcutta and Madras High Courts have held that where false evidence has been given in course of a trial, but a retrial has been ordered in view of an irregularity in that trial, the accused is liable for the same as obligation to state the truth exists always. But the Bombay High Court disagreed with this point of view where the proceedings had been annulled as no sanction for the prosecution had been given, and thus the previous proceedings could not be called judicial proceedings before which the earlier evidence was given.

The Supreme Court has observed in S.P. Kohli v. High Court of Punjab and Haryana that it is now almost settled that court must sanction prosecution for the offence of giving false evidence only when false evidence has been given deliberately on a matter of substance and that there is every probability of an order of conviction by the court in the matter.