Receipt of Stolen Property
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The article is written by Ayush Verma, a student of RMLNLU, Lucknow. This article deals with the provisions relating to receipt of stolen property under IPC.

Introduction

Receiving a property that a person knows to be a stolen one is a crime. Such property may have been stolen by way of theft, extortion, or by any other way. It is considered a crime because buying of such property would encourage crimes like theft, robbery etc as the person stealing such property would get money after selling the stolen property. Therefore, receiving of stolen property is a crime to prevent the selling of stolen property which may reward thieves for their criminal acts. It also prevents concealing of property by a person who knows that such property is obtained by an illegal way. There are various provisions related to the receiving of stolen property in IPC. These are given under Section 410 to 414 of the IPC.

Stolen Property

Section 410 states that a property whose possession has been transferred by theft, extortion, or robbery and which has been criminally misappropriated or in respect of which criminal breach of trust has been committed, is considered a “stolen property”, where the transfer of it has been made, or its misappropriation or breach of trust has been committed, within or without India. It further states that if the property subsequently comes into the possession of a person who is legally entitled to possess that, it then ceases to be stolen property.

Essential Ingredients

Property should be Stolen Property

The property being received by a person must be a stolen property to constitute an offence of receiving stolen property under the provisions of the Code. Property whose possession is transferred by the five ways given in Section 410 is considered a stolen property. Those are:

  1. By theft;
  2. By extortion;
  3. By robbery;
  4. By criminal misappropriation; and
  5. By criminal breach of trust.

Ownerless Property

It is based on the concept of res nullius which means that a property which has no owner or which has been abandoned by its actual owner. A property which has no owner cannot be subject to theft and hence, receiving it would not lead to receipt of stolen property. For e.g- a bull which has been abandoned by its owner and belongs to no one, taking it would not amount to receiving of stolen property.

‘Within or Without India’

Section 410 says that it is immaterial to consider whether the transfer has been made, or criminal misappropriation, or breach of trust has been committed, within or outside India. The transfer of such property can be made within or without India to qualify it as “stolen property”.

Property Obtained Otherwise

It must be noted that a property obtained by cheating or forgery is not called a stolen property.

Property exchanged or converted

A property which is obtained by exchanging or converting stolen property is not stolen property in itself. For e.g. if some amount of cash is obtained by selling a stolen property then that cash would not be called stolen property. However, if an ingot is made by melting a stolen jewellery or ornament, then that ingot would be stolen property as it is the same in substance, though altered in appearance.

Dishonestly Receiving or Retaining Stolen Property

Section 411 proposes that whoever dishonestly receives or retains a stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe that such property is a stolen one, shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend up to three years, or with fine, or both. Therefore any person having belief or knowledge about any stolen property must not receive or retain it. 

The liability under Section 411 arises not only for dishonest “reception” but also for dishonest “retention”. The difference between the two is that in the former, the person has received the property dishonestly but may not necessarily retain it dishonestly. However, in the latter, there is a change in the mind of the person from “honest” to “dishonest” and he then retains that property dishonestly with himself.

Following are the ingredients that need to be established to prove the guilt of the accused:

  • That the accused had possession of the stolen property.
  • That before the accused got the possession of the property, the property was in some other person’s possession.
  • That the accused had knowledge and reason to believe that the property was a stolen one.
  • That the accused had intent to deprive the owner of his or her property by keeping or selling it to another party.

Offence under Section 411 is cognizable and warrant should be issued in the first instance. The offence is non-bailable and compoundable with the permission of the Court. The offence is tried under the Magistrate.

Receiving or Retaining Stolen Property with Knowledge

The offence under Section 411 is not made punishable just for receiving a stolen property from any person for any particular reason. The offence is made punishable only when someone buys such property with the knowledge or having reason to believe that it was stolen property.

The word “believe” involves the necessity of establishing that the circumstances were such that a reasonable person would be convinced that the property he is purchasing or dealing with, is stolen.

If a person has obtained a property that he does not know to be stolen, it is not sufficient to show that the accused was careless, or he had reason to suspect that the property was stolen or he did not make sufficient enquiry to ascertain the status of that property. It is immaterial whether the person receiving it knows or not who stole it. Initial possessing of that property is not a crime but if the person retains it after knowing that it was stolen property, then the person is liable.

In the case of Bhanwarlal v. State of Rajasthan, the accused purchased 9kgs of silver for a paltry sum, having knowledge that it was stolen property. The person was not considered a bona-fide purchaser by the Court. Silver ingots were recovered from many persons at his instance and his conviction was held to be sustainable.

In the case of Nagappa Dhondiba v. State, here the stolen ornaments of a deceased person which she had been wearing when she was alive were discovered, from the information given by the accused, within thirty days of the murder of the deceased. It was held by the Court that the accused can only be made liable under Section 411 and not under Section 302 for murder or Section 394 for voluntarily causing hurt in pursuance of robbery as there was no evidence to establish the liability of the person on those grounds.

In the case of State of Karnataka v. Abdul Gaffar, a copper pot containing Rs. 200 in it was stolen from the temple. The presumption was made that the person in whose possession the pot was found must have committed theft. The property was worth Rs. 600. A fine of Rs. 200 was imposed under Section 411 considering the fact that it was stolen from a temple.

Possession

It is not necessary to establish that the stolen goods should have been produced from the actual possession of the accused. It should be shown that the accused after believing that the property is a stolen one held that property in his possession with a dishonest intent. Therefore the “possession” must be a conscious one, that the person having knowledge about the stolen property held the same, in order to charge him with criminal liability. 

The criminal liability for possession of stolen property must be actual and exclusive. It must not lead to constructive possession i.e. a person who is the superior person in a joint family is presumed to have possession of the entire family property, and if one of the members of his family commits such a crime, that supreme person cannot be held to be liable for the possession of stolen property by that member. Only that person shall be exclusively made liable who was in actual possession of the stolen property with a dishonest intention and having knowledge or reason to believe that such property was a stolen one.

An accused would only be held liable for the property that has been recovered from him and not for the rest of the property that may be connected with it. The fact that the rest of the property is not recovered from him does not change his liability. Also, mere knowledge about the whereabouts of the property does not make a person liable under Section 411.

In the case of Trimbak v. State, the place from which the property was taken was in open and easily accessible to all sundry and that in these circumstances it was not safe to hold that the place was in the possession of the accused, or that the property was recovered from his possession. The fact that the recovery is done from accused is compatible with the circumstance that somebody else having placed the articles there and that resulted in accused acquiring the knowledge about their whereabouts and the case being so, the fact of discovery cannot be regarded as a conclusive proof that the accused was in possession of these articles. Based on the reasons given above, the Supreme Court ordered the acquittal of the accused.

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Receiving Property Stolen in the Commission of a Dacoity

Section 412 says that any person who dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, the possession of which, after having knowledge and reason to believe, has been transferred by the commission of dacoity, or has dishonestly received from a person, whom he knows or has reason to believe to belong or to have belonged to a gang of dacoits, a property which he has knowledge or has reason to believe that the property is a stolen one, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend up to ten years and shall also be liable for a fine.

Following ingredients must be satisfied to make a person liable under Section 412:

  • That the property is stolen property;
  • That such property was concerned with dacoity;
  • That the accused dishonestly received it; and
  • That accused had knowledge or reason to believe that the said property was stolen in dacoity.

The offence under Section 412 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and triable by a Court of session.

Habitually Dealing in Stolen Property

Section 413 states that any person who habitually receives or deals in a stolen property, having knowledge or reason to believe that the property is a stolen one, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend upto ten years, and shall also be liable for fine.

Following ingredients shall be satisfied for making a person liable under Section 413:

  • That the property in question is a stolen property;
  • That the accused received that property;
  • That the accused habitually deals in such property; and
  • That the person did so having knowledge or reason to believe that the property was stolen property.

The offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and it is triable be a Court of session.

Concealing and Disposing of Stolen Property

Section 414 deals with concealing and disposing of stolen property. It states that any person who voluntarily assists in concealing or disposing of that property or making away of that property which he has knowledge of or reasons to believe to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to three years, or with fine, or both.

Following ingredients need to be satisfied before making a person liable under Section 414:

  • That the property in question is a stolen property;
  • That the accused had knowledge or reasons to believe that the property was stolen property; and
  • That the accused voluntarily assisted in concealing or disposing of or making away with such property.

The offence under Section 414 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and triable by a Magistrate.

Conclusion

The provision seeks to protect the crimes like theft, robbery as receiving of stolen property would encourage such acts. A person engaging in obtaining of stolen property commits a crime of receiving stolen property. However, there must be a dishonest intention and knowledge or reason to believe that the property being received is a stolen one to establish the guilt of the person. 


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