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This article is written by Gurkaran Babrah, a first-year law student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article gives an overview on Robbery in relation to theft, extortion and on Dacoity.

Robbery

In modern American and English law, the crime of robbery is generally defined by the statute. There are two types of definitions which are primarily used. The first which is closely derived from the older English common law and the second one is which is Recommended by the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code. The terms like robbery, theft and extortion are very similar to each other and they are often used interchangeably on a daily basis. But the legal implication of all the three terms is different. The Indian penal code has defined these terms very clearly. It has identified these as distinct crimes. Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code has defined robbery and has defined theft and extortion in relation to robbery. Before analyzing or understanding Section 390, first theft and extortion need to be understood separately.

Theft

Theft has been defined under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It says “ whoever intends to take dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent and moves it, he/she is said to have committed a theft.”

For example: If A is employed by B and entrusted by C with the care of D’s cash, dishonestly runs away with that cash, without D’s consent. Then A has committed theft.

In the case of Pyare Lal Bhargava v. State of Rajasthan, a government employee took a file from the office and gave it to Mr.A and brought it back two days later. It was held that he took the property away with a dishonest or malicious intention and that is enough to term it as a theft. 

Essentials of theft

The essentials of theft are:

  • There has to be a dishonest intention to take the property away.
  • The property should not be attached to the earth. It should be movable property. As soon as the property is separated from the earth, it is capable of becoming the subject of theft. For example, if  A cuts down a tree on B’s ground, with the intention of dishonestly taking the tree out of B’s possession without B’s consent. Then as soon as separates the tree, he commits theft. 
  • The property must be taken out of the possession of another. A thing which is in the possession of nobody cannot be the subject of theft.
  • The most important thing is that the property must be taken away without consent.
  • There should be physical movement of the property, however, it is not important that it should be moved directly. For example, if someone cuts the string which is tied to the necklace owing to which the necklace falls, it would be held that he or she has caused sufficient movement of the property as required for it to amount to theft.

Punishment for theft

The punishment for theft is defined under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It says that a person who commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 years or with fine or with both. 

Extortion

Extortion is defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section says that any person who intentionally puts another person in fear of injury and dishonestly induces him or her to deliver any valuable property or anything signed which can be converted into valuable security is said to have committed extortion.

For example, if D threatens A that he will keep A’s child in wrongful confinement and will kill him unless A delivers to him a sum of Rupees one lakh. Then D has committed extortion.

Essentials of extortion

The essentials of extortion are:

  • The person committing the offence should intentionally put the victim in fear of injury. The fear of injury must be to such an extent that it is capable of unsettling the mind of the victim and forcing him to give his property, as in the above-stated example.
  • The person committing the offence should dishonestly induce the victim so to put in fear to part with his (the victim’s) property.

In the landmark case of R.S. Nayak v. A.R Antulay, A.R. Antulay, a CM, promised the sugar cooperatives whose cases were pending before the government for consideration that their cases would be looked into if they donated money. It was held that fear or threat should be used for extortion, and since in this case, there was no fear of injury or threat it would not amount to extortion.

Punishment for extortion

Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code defines the punishment for extortion. It states that any person who commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 years or with fine or with both. 

Essential Ingredients of Robbery

Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 says that in all robbery there is either extortion or theft. The Black law’s dictionary defines robbery as the 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.

Causing Death, Hurt or Wrongful Restraint or Fear 

Death, hurt, wrongful restraint or fear can be caused when theft is a robbery or when extortion is robbery. These two are explained below with the help of illustrations.

When theft is robbery

Theft is a robbery when in order to commit theft, the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death, subject him to wrongful restraint, cause hurt or induce fear of instant death, instant wrongful restraint or cause instant hurt.

Theft can be called as a robbery when the conditions given below are satisfied:

  • When the offender voluntarily attempts to cause death;
  • wrongful restraint;
  • fear of instant death;
  • instant wrongful restraint;
  • instant hurt.

And  the above acts are done:

  • while committing the theft,
  • While carrying away the property acquired by theft, or
  • While attempting to carry away property.

For example, if A holds B down and fraudulently takes B’s money from B’s clothes without B’s consent. Here A has committed theft and by committing theft he has voluntarily caused wrongful restraint to B. Therefore, A has committed robbery.

When extortion becomes robbery

Extortion becomes robbery when the person committing the offence of extortion put the other person in fear and commits extortion by putting that person in fear of death, instant wrongful restraint to that person or to some other person and by doing so induces the person so put in fear then and there deliver the thing that has been extorted.

For example, if A meets B and B’s child is on a road. A takes the child and threatens to fling it down a height unless B delivers his purse. B delivers his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from B by causing B to be in fear of instant hurt to the child who is present. A has therefore robbed B. However if A obtains the property by saying that your child is in my hand of my gang and he/she will be put to death unless you send us ten lakh rupees. This will amount to extortion, and punishable as such, but it would not be considered as robbery unless B is put in fear of instant death of his child. 

Possession of Stolen Property

Property is an important part of the law. Section 410 to Section 414 of the India Penal Code talks about the concept of stolen property. Section 410 of the Indian Penal code defines it as when a person transfers his/her property to another person. It can happen by way of theft, extortion or robbery. It includes all kinds of properties which a person can misappropriate for criminal breach of trust.

These kinds of instances related to property are known as stolen properties. Section 410 of the Indian Penal Code also says that if a person transfers the property by using any of the means given below that will be considered as stolen property. These means are:

  • Theft;
  • Extortion;
  • Robbery; 
  • Criminal misappropriation;
  • Criminal breach of trust.

Section 411 of the Indian Penal Code says that any person who dishonestly possess or retains the property will be punished with at least 3 years of imprisonment, fine or both.

Punishment for Robbery 

Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with all kinds of punishments related to criminal law . Under Section 392 of this code, the punishment for robbery is defined. This section says that any person who commits robbery shall be punished with imprisonment which may be extended up to ten years and shall also be liable for fine.

Further, this section says that if a person commits a robbery on a highway then the term for imprisonment will be of 14 (fourteen) years. Section 393 of the Indian Penal Code defines the punishment for an attempt to commit robbery. The punishment for this is imprisonment for up to 7 years and also liable for fine. 

Punishment for Being a Member of Gang of Robbers 

Section 412 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the punishment for being a member of a gang of robbers. This section deals with the person who retains or receives stolen property the possession of which he/she knows that it is due to the commission of a dacoity. It further says that when a person receives from another person whom he or she knows or has justification to believe that property belongs to a group of dacoits, and knows or has reason to believe that the property have robbed or stolen.

For all such people, the punishment is imprisonment of life or with a rigours term which can be extended to 10 years. This section punishes everyone who receives any property which has been acquired by the commission of dacoity.

Attempt to Commit Robbery

Attempt to commit robbery has been defined under Section 393 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It explicitly says that any person who attempts to commit robbery will be punished with rigorous imprisonment whose term can be extended to 7 years and he or she will also be liable to pay the fine.

Dacoity (Aggravated Form of Robbery)

Aggravated form of robbery not only includes robbery but it also includes theft and serious injuries to the victim. When five or more than five persons commit or attempt to commit a robbery that is known as dacoity. It is more of an aggravated form of robbery and generally, the robber is armed with deadly weapons.

Dacoity is defined under Section 391 of the IPC and the punishment for it is defined under Section 395 of the IPC. The only difference between robbery and dacoity is a number of participants. Section 395 punishes every member of the group in dacoity whether that person takes an active part or not. The punishment under this section is imprisonment up to 10 years with fine. 

Dacoity

According to the dictionary of oxford, dacoity means an act of violent robbery which is committed by an armed gang. There is only one factor which differentiates dacoity from robbery and that is the number of offenders. One person can also commit a robbery and more than 1 person can also commit robbery. But when 5 or more than 5 commit a robbery it is termed as dacoity.

Section 391 of the Indian Penal Code defines robbery. It says that when 5 or more than 5 conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit “dacoity”.

Essential Ingredients

In order to commit dacoity, there are 3 essentials which must be there. These essentials are:

  • There should be at least five or more than five persons;
  • They should conjointly commit or attempt to commit dacoity;
  • They should have dishonest intention.

Sentence for Dacoity

Punishment for dacoity is defined under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section says that a person who commits dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which can be extended to ten years, and shall also be liable to pay the fine. This offence is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable in nature.

The State vs Sadhu Singh and Ors in this case, four and one kurda Singh was involved in committing a dacoity. They all were armed with deadly weapons such as rifles and pistols. They committed a robbery at the house of gharsiram. They injured Gharsiram, jugalkishore, Sandal and Jugalkisore. The dacoits, in this case, tried to take a wristwatch and a shawl of one person but as they were villagers the dacoits were not able to take anything with them. When dacoits started running from the villagers they received a hot chase from them and in return dacoits shot a fire. As a result, dharma, one of the villagers died but the villages captured one of the dacoits. In this case, the dacoits were charged under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code. 

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Aggravated form of Dacoity

Aggravated form of dacoity is defined under Section 396 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under  Section 396 aggravated form is defined as dacoity with murder. It says that if anyone of five or more than five persons, who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death and shall also be liable to fine.

The ingredients of Section 396 are:

  • The offence of dacoity must be committed with the joint act of the accused persons; 
  • Murder must be committed in course of the commission of the dacoity.

If anyone of the five or more persons who are committing robbery commit murder while committing dacoity then, every one of them will held liable for murder even if some of them did not participate in committing the murder. Under Section 396 of the IPC, it is not necessary to prove whether the murder was committed by a single person or it was committed by all of them. It is also not necessary to prove the common intention. The prosecution is only required to prove that the murder was committed while committing the dacoity. If the prosecution successfully proves that the murder was committed while committing dacoity, then all of the members will be punished under Section 396 of the IPC.

If the offenders are running and while chasing them if one of the dacoits kill someone then the other members of the gang can not be held guilty under Section 396 of the IPC. In one of the landmark case laws i.e. Laliya v state of Rajasthan it was observed that whether the murder is a part of dacoity or not, it totally depends on the circumstances of that time.

The court decided that the attention has to be paid on these points before coming to a conclusion. These points are:

  • Whether the dacoits retreated or not and the murder was committed while retreating or not?
  • What is the time interval between the attempt of murder and dacoity?
  • What is the distance between the places where they attempt to murder and attempt to dacoity was committed?

In one of the cases i.e. in Shyam Behari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the dacoit killed one of the victims, who had caught the robber’s associate in an attempt to commit dacoit. The robber was convicted under Section 396 of IPC because any murder committed by the dacoits during their fight would be treated as murder. 

Offences Connected with Dacoity

Before committing any offence intention plays a very important role in it. Under criminal law, the intention is known by Mens Rea. Mens rea means guilty of Mind. For every criminal offence, there should be Mens rea on the part of the offender. If put in other words it means that there has to be intention to commit a crime. The term “Intention”  has not explicitly defined under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 But under IPC Section 34 of it deals with common intention. 

Section 34 of IPC defines acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. This section says that “when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, every such person is liable for the act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.”

This section requires a particular criminal intention or knowledge and the act should be committed by more than one person. Everyone who joins the act with the knowledge of the consequences, all of them should be made liable under this section.

Preparation to Commit Dacoity

Section 399 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has talks about preparation to commit dacoity. It says that whoever makes any preparation for committing dacoity shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.  

Assembling for the Purpose of Committing Dacoity

Assembling for purpose of committing dacoity is defined under Section 402 of the Indian Penal Code. It says that whoever, at any time after the passing of the act, shall be one of five or more persons assembled for the purpose of committing dacoity, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

Belonging to Gangs of Dacoits

Belonging to gangs of dacoits is defined under Section 400 of the IPC. It says that anybody who at any time after the passing of this act, shall belong to a gang of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing dacoity will be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Judicial Pronouncements

Arjun Ganpat Sandbhor vs state of Maharashtra

In this case, a truck driver was killed and the truck was taken away by the dacoits. This incident took place in darkness. The evidence of the son of the deceased, who was in the truck at the time when the accident took place was not free from doubt. He admitted at that time that he used to have forgetting tendency. Test identification parade was not held according to guidelines prescribed under Criminal Manual. In the view of the totality of the evidence the accused was entitled to acquittal.

Md Imamuddin & Anr. vs. State of Bihar 

In this case, the plea was to reduce the punishment for dacoity. Some of them were accused to commit dacoity in a running train. They were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years and two years for respective offences. The accused remained in custody for a substantial amount of time, about 50 per cent of the punishment. Their punishment was reduced to half and which they have already passed the time in imprisonment.

Conclusion

This article explains the concept of Robbery and Dacoity according to the Indian Penal Code, 1860. But in order to understand Robbery and dacoity, one needs to understand the concept of theft and extortion. So, in this article before going to robbery and dacoity, theft and extortion has been explained with the relevant examples and relevant case laws. These are important to understand because these terms may seem to be similar but they are different in its legal application. They are often used interchangeably. This article gives an overview of all these concepts keeping in view and according to the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

References

  1. Criminal Manual 2019th edition.
  2. https://blog.ipleaders.in/overview-section-390-indian-penal-code/

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