Offences
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This article is written by Sidra Khan, a student of Amity University, Noida. The article discusses the provisions related to Offences related to Property.

Table of Contents

Introduction

As we know that a property can be divided into two parts; movable property and immovable property. Any offences committed related to the property whether movable or immovable will be punishable under the provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Provisions for offences relating to the property have been enumerated under Section 378 – Section 460 of this code.

Theft

It is defined under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code. It states that any person with a dishonest intention to take any movable property out of the possession of a person without the person’s consent to whom it belongs move that property is said to commit theft. 

There are five main ingredients of theft:

  • Dishonest intention to take property;
  • Property should be moveable;
  • The property must be taken out of possession of another person;
  • Property should be taken without the person’s consent;
  • Property should be moved, in order to such taking.
  1. Dishonest intention to take property

It is the main ingredient of the theft. Any property which is taken will not amount to theft until the intention was dishonest. And the intention of the person who is taking the property was to cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another person.

Illustration: A owns a necklace, and B finds it in A’s house. The necklace is in A’s possession and if B dishonestly takes it. B commits theft. 

2. Property should be movable

To commit theft property should be movable. Property which is capable of being carried around is said to be a movable property. Any property or a thing which is permanently attached to the earth said to be an immovable property and will not be a subject of theft. But it will become a subject of theft when it is severed from the earth and capable of being moved without the consent of a person in whose possession it is.

Illustration: A standing tree which is attached to the earth is said to be immovable property. But it will become movable when it is cut down. 

Case Law: Pyarelal Bhargava v. the State of Rajasthan

In this case, an office file from the chief engineer office was removed temporarily and was given to the private party for a day, it amounts to theft. The Hon’ble court held that to commit theft the loss needed to be permanent. Even property dispossession is temporary, a person taking the property intended to restore it is said to commit theft. 

3. The property must be taken out of possession of another person

Any property which is stolen should be in possession of another person. Until the property is removed no offence has been committed.

Illustration: Y finds a mobile phone which belongs to X on a sofa in X’s house. A mobile phone was in the possession X if Y removes it dishonestly, Y commits theft. Here mobile phone was in possession of X.

Case Law:  Rakesh v. State of NCT of Delhi

In this case, the Hon’ble court held that mere intention of the offender to take property dishonestly out of the possession of a person without his consent is no offence. Until the property is removed, no offence has been committed. The actual removal of property from another person’s possession is necessary, as mentioned in Section 378 of IPC.

4. Property should be taken without the person’s consent

If a property of a person in possession is taken without his prior consent (express or implied) will amount to commit theft. The offence will take place when the offender takes the property dishonestly and without the consent of that person. 

Illustration: S, being an R’s friend, enters the house of R and runs away with the ring which was on R’s table, without R’s consent. S has committed theft. As here R’s consent is not present.

Case Law: K.N. Mehra v. the State of Rajasthan

In this case, the Supreme Court held that proof of intention to cause permanent deprivation of property or to obtain wrongful gain is not necessary for the purpose of proving dishonest intention. Absence of a person’s consent to whom the property belongs at the time of moving it and the presence of dishonest intention at the time of taking that property are the essentials to commit theft.

5. Property should be moved, in order of such taking

Moving a property with a dishonest intention is an initial stage of committing a theft. So, the property should be moved, to commit an offence. 

Illustration: A goes to B’s house, and sees a diamond necklace lying on the table. A hides that necklace at B’s place and thinks whenever he will visit next time. He’ll take it. Here, A commits no theft as the property has not been moved.

Punishment for theft is given under Section 380 of IPC. 

Whoever commits theft shall be punished with 3 years of imprisonment or fine or with both.

Extortion

Extortion is defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code. It states that whoever intentionally puts any other person in fear of injury to him, or to any other person, and dishonestly induces him by putting him in fear to deliver any property or any valuable thing or anything sealed and signed said to commit extortion.

Main ingredients of extortion are:

  • Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury;
  • Dishonestly inducing the person so put him in fear to deliver his property, valuable security to another person.

Case Law: Dhananjay v. State of Bihar

In this case, the court held that to constitute extortion, one must fulfil these ingredients:

  1. Accused must put a person or any other person in fear of injury;
  2. Intentionally person was put in fear by the accused;
  3. The inducement was on the part of the accused to deliver the property;
  4. Inducement should be made dishonestly.

1. Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury

It is just that a person should be put in fear and cause wrongful gain to one and wrongful loss to another person, and the fear of injury must be real in nature. An act done by him under fear is voluntary. 

Illustration: Y threatens Z to publish a defamatory article in the newspaper against Z. Y induces Z to give money. Here, Y commits extortion.

2. Dishonest inducement to a person to deliver his property or valuables

To constitute the offence one must dishonestly induce the person by putting him in fear to deliver his property or valuable security. Delivery of property by any such person in fear is an essence of it. Movable and immovable property both are covered under extortion.

Illustration: Y induces Z and threatens him to sign the promissory note and deliver it to Y. Otherwise, Y will kill Z’s son. Z under fear signs and delivers the note. Here, Y commits extortion.

Case Law: Gursharan Singh v. the State of Punjab

In this case, the court held that the most ingredient element to commit extortion is that the offender induces the person and puts in fear to deliver the property or any valuable security. And even if the amount which was demanded is paid after a few days, then also it is said to be extortion.

Punishment for committing extortion is under Section 384 of IPC.

Whosoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description or which may extend up to three years or with fine or with both.

More aggravated forms of Extortion

Section 386 to 389 deals with aggravated forms of Extortion.

  1. Section 386 of IPC deals with any person who commits extortion by putting in fear of death or of grievous hurt to him or any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend ten years and shall be liable with fine also.
  2. Section 387 of IPC deals with any person who attempts to extort a person by putting him in fear of death or of grievous hurt is enough. It is not necessary that the actual commission of extortion takes place. Punishment under this is imprisonment of either description which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
  3. Section 388 of IPC deals with any person who commits extortion by way of threat of accusation to a person, shall be punished with death, or with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, or have attempted to induce any other person to commit extortion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to ten years, or shall also be liable to fine.
  4. Section 389 of IPC deals with any person who attempts to extort to a person by putting him in fear of accusation of offence. No actual commission of extortion takes place. Punishment under this is death, or imprisonment for life or, imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.  

Robbery

Section 390 of IPC states that in all robbery there is either theft or extortion. According to Black’s Law dictionary robbery is a felonious act of taking the personal property of another from a person or immediate presence against his will accomplished by using force and fear, with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the thing.

We need to understand robbery in both cases:

  1. Theft;
  2. Extortion.

When theft is robbery?

A robbery takes place when, while committing theft or moving property, the offender does any of these acts:

  1. When any person voluntarily causes or makes an attempt to cause death, hurt or wrongful restraint to any person;
  2. When any person voluntarily causes or makes an attempt to cause fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful restraint to any person.

An act done by the offender should be done in order to commit theft or committing theft or carrying away property which is obtained by theft.

Illustration: A finds jewels in B’s house. A holds B and takes that jewels fraudulently without B’s consent. Here A commits theft and in order to commit robbery, A wrongfully restraints B. Here A commits robbery.

When extortion is robbery?

Extortion becomes robbery when the offender does any of these acts:

  1. Whoever commits extortion and puts a person in a fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful restraint;
  2. The offender induces a person and puts him in fear to deliver the property;
  3. The offender puts a person in fear at the time of extortion.

Illustration: B meets C on the highway, and shows a pistol towards B, and demands B’s purse.B surrenders her purse. Here, C committed extortion in addition to it putting B in fear of instant death C committed robbery also.

Punishment for robbery is under Section 392 IPC. 

According to Section 392; Whosoever commits robbery, the punishment for it is rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and also involves fine. 

This punishment extends up to fourteen years if the offender commits robbery on highways between the sunset and sunrise.

For attempting to commit robbery, the punishment is rigorous imprisonment of seven years and fine also.

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Dacoity

Section 391 of IPC states that when five or more persons conjointly commits or attempts to commit robbery, it is said to be dacoity. There is no difference between the robbery and dacoity, except for the number of offenders. Group of people which is five or more than five in number makes an attempt to commit robbery or aids in committing or attempting a robbery, is said to commit dacoity. 

Case Law:

 Amrish Devnarayan v. the State of Gujarat   

In this case, the Hon’ble court held that to prove dacoity, one must be supposed to establish certain facts:

  1. In the commission of an offence involvement of a person should be five or more than it, as an accused;
  2. An attempt to commit offence or commission of an offence should be conjoint.

These are the essential facts which need to be proved in the court to prove dacoity.

Punishment for Dacoity is under Section 395 of IPC

Whoever commits dacoity will be liable for punishment includes life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years and fine also. 

Criminal misappropriation of property

Meaning of Misappropriation

The word misappropriation means a dishonest appropriation and use of another person’s property for one’s own use. 

Dishonest Misappropriation of property is under Section 403 of IPC

Any person who dishonestly misappropriated any movable property or converts any movable property for his own use will be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or fine, or with both.

Essential ingredients to commit an offence

  1. Dishonest misappropriation of a property should be done;
  2. Such property must be movable;
  3. Such property should belong to the complainant.

Illustration: Y takes property belonging to X,  out of X’s possession, in good faith. Believing that property belongs to him. Y is not guilty of theft. But as soon as Y discovers that property doesn’t belong to him and dishonestly appropriates the property to his own use. Y is guilty of an offence of dishonest misappropriation of a property.

Case Law: Ramaswami Nadar v. the State of Maharashtra

In this case, Hon’ble Supreme court said that the words used in Section 403 ‘converts to his own use’ necessarily implies that the accused has used the property in derogation of the rights of the owner of that property.

Finder of goods

Any person who finds the goods and at that time the intention was not dishonest at the time of possession of goods, mere change in the thought does not make that possession illegal. Finder of goods can take possession of those goods if he has taken all the necessary steps to find the real owner of the goods. He can use it for himself if the true owner is not found by him. 

Dishonest misappropriation of property possessed by deceased person at the time of his death is under Section 404 of IPC

Any person dishonestly misappropriated or converts it to own use any deceased person’s property knowing that property was in the possession of the deceased person at the time of his decease used by him, and also not been in the possession of any legal heir of that person who is legally entitled to get that property’s possession. That person will be punished with imprisonment described which may extend to three years, and also liable to fine and also if that offender was a servant or a clerk at the time of such person’s disease, will be liable to seven years of imprisonment.

Essential ingredients to commit an offence:

  1. The property must be movable;
  2. Property should be in possession of a deceased at the time of his death;
  3. Misappropriation of the property done by accused;
  4. Dishonestly done by the accused.

Case Law: State of Orissa v. Bishnu Charan Muduli

In this case, the Supreme Court held liable to a Head constable for forcefully taken out the articles from the boatsman, who previously recovered it from the dead body of a  drowned person. And Head constable held liable under Section 404 for keeping deceased person’s articles in possession dishonestly.  

Criminal breach of trust

Criminal breach of trust is under Section 405 of IPC

Any person to whom the property belongs confers a property or dominion over it to other people. And the offender dishonestly misappropriated or converts it to own use. Or he may fraudulently use or dispose of that property in violation of any law in which the prescribed manner is given to discharge the trust, or any legal contract which may be either express or implied, which is made for the discharge of trust, is said to commit criminal breach of trust.

Illustration: Y is the executor of the will of a deceased person. While executing a will, Y dishonestly disobeys the law, which directs him to divide the share equally, and Y fraudulently takes some part of the property. Here, Y commits criminal breach of trust.

Essential ingredients to commit an offence

  1. Entrustment of property by one person to another;
  2. The offender misappropriates or converts the property for its own use;
  3. Any violation of direction or any law prescribed by the law for discharging the  trust;
  4. The property must be dishonestly converted or misappropriated.

Case Law: Shiva Sagar Tiwari v. Union of India 

In this case, the Supreme Court held that a minister holds the position of a trustee in respect of public property, it is his duty to deal in a just and fair manner with people’s property. And if he fails to do so, he will be liable for criminal breach of trust. 

Punishment for criminal breach of trust is under Section 406 of IPC

Any person who commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment either description for a term which may extend up to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Receiving stolen property

Section 410 of IPC defines Receiving stolen property

It states that a person having any property whose possession has been transferred through theft, extortion or robbery and that property has been criminally misappropriated or in respect of which criminal breach of trust has been committed will be considered as stolen property. Transfer of property has been done, or property’s misappropriation has been done, or breach of trust has been committed, within India or without India. 

Any person who has lawful possession of that property, then it will cease to be stolen property. 

Essential ingredients to commit an offence

  1. The property must be stolen property;
  2. It is not necessary that misappropriation or breach of trust done within or without India;
  3. Such property comes in the possession of a legal person legally entitled to it, which ceases to be stolen property.

Section 411 of IPC defines dishonestly receiving stolen property

Any person dishonestly receives or retains the stolen property, knowing that it is a stolen property or having a reason to believe it to be stolen property, will be imprisoned for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Essential ingredients to commit an offence

  1. Accused has possession of the stolen property;
  2. Some other person has possession of a property before the accused got possession of it;
  3. Property is stolen and the accused has knowledge about it.

Case Law: Nagappa Dhondiba v. State

In this case, stolen ornaments of a deceased woman were recovered which she was wearing when she was alive by the information given by the accused, within the thirty days of the murder of the woman. Court held that the person will be made liable under Section 411 and not under Section 302 or under Section 394 as there was no evidence to support the case and made the accused liable on those grounds.

Cheating

Meaning

According to Hawkins, it is a deceitful practice, in defrauding or endeavouring to defraud another of his own right by means of some artful device, contrary to the plain rule of common honesty.

Section 415 of IPC defines 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.

It states that any person who has fraudulent or dishonest intentions at the time of making a promise with an intention to retain the property is guilty of cheating.

Essential ingredients to commit an offence:

1. Deception

It means to deceive any person by making him believe what is not true or to mislead him through words or conduct. 

2. Dishonest intention

Any person who deceives must dishonestly, to do wrongful loss and to have a wrongful gain or fraudulently intention to injure unascertained property or person induce any person to deliver any property or to do some act which the person so deceived otherwise would not have done.

3. Causes Damage

There should be harm, damage to the mind, body, property or reputation of the person so deceived and not to any other person.

Illustration: Z by misrepresenting diamonds to Y, which Z knows they are not real diamonds, intentionally deceives Y, and dishonestly induces Y. Here, Z cheats.

Section 416 of IPC defines cheating by personation

It can be defined as where a person cheats by pretending to be some other person, or knowingly substituting another person and pretending to be that other person or representing that other person, said to be cheating by personation.

Section 417 of IPC deals with punishment for cheating

Any person who is guilty of cheating will be punished with the imprisonment of either description which may extend to one year, or fine, or with both.

Section 419 of IPC deals with punishment for cheating by personation

Any person who is guilty of cheating by personation will be punished with the imprisonment of either description which may extend to three years, or fine, or with both.

Section 420 of IPC deals with cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property

It is an offence which is committed by a person by cheating another person and inducing him to deliver his property to the offender or to make it alter, or to destroy the whole or any part of the valuable security, and anything which is signed or sealed and can convert into a valuable property, that person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to seven years and also be liable to fine also.

Case Law: Sushil Kumar Datta v. State of West Bengal

In this case, the accused project himself as he belongs to Schedule Caste candidate at an IAS examination and got selected in the exam and appointment of him has been done due to false representation. Court held that conviction under Section 420 is justified and the accused held liable. 

Mischief 

Section 425 of IPC defines Mischief

A person commits mischief if he causes destruction of property knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person even if an intention to cause that damage is not made out. 

Essential ingredients to commit an offence:

  1. Intention or knowledge should be there to cause wrongful loss to the public;
  2. Destructing any property;
  3. The destruction which is causing diminish in its value (wrongful loss).

Illustration: C voluntarily throws D’s necklace into the sea. With the intention to cause wrongful loss to the D. Here, C commits mischief.

Case Law: Indian Oil Corporation v. NEPC India Ltd. and Ors.

In this case, the court held that ownership or possession of the property is not necessary for the purpose of Section 425. Even the property belongs to the accused, and the essential ingredients are made out. Mischief is committed. In this case, respondent removes the engines from the aircraft, which diminishes the value of the aircraft, and its badly affecting them. This caused damage to the appellant’s who possessed the whole aircraft. After an investigation was conducted it was found out that all the ingredients of mischief had been satisfied. The allegations which were made were true and constituted the offence of mischief.

Punishment for mischief is under Section 426 of IPC

As per this Section, any person who commits mischief shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description which may extend to three months, or fine, or with both. 

Aggravated forms of Mischief

Section 427 to Section 440 of IPC deals with the more aggravated offences, they are classified into 7 types:

  1. Section 427 deals with damage of property valued at Rs. 50 and upwards;
  2. Section 428 to 429 deals with Mischief done by any person in regard to animals;
  3. Section 430 to Section 434 deals with mischief done by any person in regard to supply and public works;
  4. Section 435 to Section 436 deals with Mischief by fire;
  5. Section 437 to Section 438 deals with mischief in regard to docked vessels;
  6. Section 439 deals with mischief in regard to any vessel to steal;
  7. Section 440 deals with mischief with preparation of causing death, hurt or wrongful restraint, or fear of such death, hurt or wrongful restraint.

Criminal trespass

Meaning

Any person unlawfully entering the private property of another person, or without his prior permission either implied or express, is said to commit criminal trespass. 

In India, it is a civil wrong and for causing damages compensation is given. But in IPC criminal trespass is considered as a criminal offence and punishable under Section 441.

Section 441 of IPC deals with Criminal Trespass

It refers to an unlawful entry made by a person into a private property of another person, with an intention to commit an offence or to intimidate that person or to annoy or insult the person in whose possession the property is. An entry taken by the person was legal but he unlawfully remains there with an intention to insult or annoy or intimidate that person and is said to commit criminal trespass.

Essential ingredients to commit a Criminal Trespass

  1. There should be an unauthorised entry on the property of another person;
  2. An entry which was made should be authorised but unlawfully remaining in the premises;
  3. Unlawful stay must be with an intention

Case Law: Punjab National Bank Ltd. v. All India Punjab National Bank Employees

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that there is a difference between knowledge and intention. In this case employees of this bank went on a pen-down strike. Here management contention was if employees want to do their job, they are allowed to enter into the premises. Otherwise, they would be considered trespassers. The court observed that the sole intention of the workers was to fulfil their demands. Although the strikers had the knowledge that such actions could annoy the officials, there was no intention to annoy the bank senior authorities. The court held that the strikers did not commit the criminal trespass.

Section 442 of IPC deals with House trespass

Any person who commits criminal trespass while entering or remaining into a building or a vessel or a tent, and that place used as a human dwelling or a building as a place of worship or any place used as custody of a property, is said to commit house-trespass. 

Essential ingredients to commit a House Trespass

It has all three ingredients of criminal trespass:

  1. There should be an unauthorised entry on the property of another person;
  2. An entry which was made should be authorised but unlawfully remaining in the premises;
  3. Unlawful stay must be with an intention;
  4. The property on which persons enter should be used as a human dwelling or a place of worship or place of custody of property.

Case Law: Makkhan v. Emperor

In this case, the court held that the to commit a house-trespass is an aggravated form of criminal trespass. In committing criminal trespass there is an intention to annoy or insult the holder of the property. Whereas to commit house-trespass the main ingredient is the property is a building with proper walls and roof on it, a mere compound wall cannot be said to be a dwelling house.   

Section 447 of IPC deals with punishment for Criminal Trespass

Any person who commits criminal trespass will be punished with the imprisonment of either description which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.

Section 448 of IPC deals with punishment for House Trespass

Any person who commits house-trespass will be punished with the imprisonment of either description which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Aggravated forms of Criminal Trespass and House Trespass

  1. Section 443, Section 455 to Section 460 deals with Lurking House Trespass;
  2. Section 445, Section 453 to Section 455 deals with Housebreaking;
  3. Section 446, Section 456 to Section 460 deals with Housebreaking by night;
  4. Section 449 deals with House trespass with intent to commit an offence punishable with death;
  5. Section 450 deals with House trespass with intent to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment for life;
  6. Section 451 deals with House trespass with intent to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment. 

Conclusion 

Theoretically, it is stated the property is an extension of the personality of an individual. It serves the purpose of satisfying the self of the individual in society.

The recognition of Right to property as a legal right by the Constitution of India itself speaks of the vitality of property in one’s sustenance in society.

The Indian Penal Code further protects the property holder and creates a deterrence on evils that plan on to infringe the rights of the other, by laying down punishments and fines for various property-related offences.

It is quite interesting and fruitful in this context to inquire into the jurisprudential basis of the concept of property. On an examination of the origin of the institution of property, it is found that the concept of property has been identified as the satisfaction of the self of an individual in society.

A thing having any value to the individual has been recognized as property for affording protection. It is also clear that the property sought to be protected must be in the possession or ownership of a person. This further corroborates with the said basic theory of recognition of property as an extension of the personality of an individual.

Hence all endeavours should be made to protect the property and the related rights for its healthy contributions in society.


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