This article is written by Sukhmandeep Singh, a law student at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. This article seeks to explain the concept of robbery and its punishment. This article provides a summary of Section 392 IPC, punishment provisions, essential aspects, and relevant case law.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Robbery is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as the felonious act of taking personal property in the possession of another from his person or immediate presence against his will, accomplished using force and fear. It means it is an unlawful act of removing a person’s personal property from the possession of another or immediate presence against that person’s consent by employing force and threat. “Robbery” is an aggravated form of theft or extortion. The primary distinguishing characteristic of the crime of robbery is that the offender intentionally causes or seeks to cause instant injury, instant death, or immediate unlawful restraint while committing theft or while taking away or attempting to carry away the stolen goods.
Robbers nowadays are presented as professional criminals in movies and television, using assault weaponry on cashiers and banker managers and might also do car theft of individuals at the gunpoint. While these scenarios depict robberies, most state laws define robbery in a different manner in order to include a wide variety of activities that many people would consider much less serious crimes than robbery. For example, a person who drags a college student heading home from a bar and grabs that student’s cell phone has committed the crime of robbery. In this case, as theft is done along with the act of dragging the student, the offence is robbery.
In the early 2010s, it was reported that over a quarter-million robberies happened in the United States. This is a steep 25% decrease from the more than one million robberies that happened each year for much of the 1990s. On the other hand, India’s robbery rate has increased by 6.69% per year, from 1.6 cases per 1 lakh population in 2004 to 2.8 cases per 1 lakh population in 2013.
What is robbery
Robbery isn’t defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on its own; rather, it is defined in terms of theft and extortion in Section 390 IPC. According to this section, theft is robbery when, in order to commit the theft, while committing the theft, or while carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained through the theft, the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause death, harm, or wrongful restraint to any person, or induces fear of instant death, harm, or wrongful restraint in another person. The theft is then referred to as robbery. It simply means when any person commits theft or while trying to commit theft, he/ she voluntarily causes harm, death or wrongfully restraint such a person on whom he wants to commit theft or a related person. Then this act is known as robbery.
This section also tells us about when extortion would be labelled as robbery. Extortion, according to Section 383 IPC is an act that is committed by anyone who intentionally puts another person in fear of some harm and then dishonestly induces that person to deliver to another person any property or valuable security or anything signed or sealed that can be converted into a valuable security. If the following happens, then that act is extortion. But that act becomes robbery when the offender is in the presence of the victim and puts that victim in fear at the time of the extortion and then commits the extortion by putting that person in some kind of fear whose result would be instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint to that victim or to some other person and induces the victim which is put in fear to deliver the goods to himself or any other person. Then extortion is known as robbery.
An offender is said to be present if he is sufficiently close in order to put the other person in fear of immediate death, immediate harm, or immediate wrongful restraint on him/ her, or any other person. For extortion to become robbery, it is important that the offender be present at the time of offence. If the person is not sufficiently present, then there might not be actual fear in the mind of the victim.
- A approaches Z on the high roads, points a pistol towards Z and demands his purse. As a result, Z gives up his purse. A has extorted the purse from Z by putting him in fear of immediate harm and committing extortion in his presence. As a result, A has committed robbery.
- On the highway, A meets G and G’s child. A pulls the child towards him and threatens to throw the child off a cliff unless G gives his purse to A. As a result, G hands over his purse. A has extorted the purse from Z by making G fearful of causing immediate harm to the child who is present. As a result, A has committed robbery on Z.
As a result, we can conclude that robbery is an aggravated type of either theft, extortion, or both. The essence of robbery is the existence of imminent violence or fear for an individual.
Essential features of robbery
When the following essentials/conditions are met, theft becomes robbery:
- When an offender causes or attempts to cause death, wrongful restraint, or bodily harm while knowing the nature of his/ her acts or having the knowledge what he/ she is doing or
- Offender causes fear in minds of the victim about immediate death, immediate hurt or immediate wrongful restraint.
- If the offender does any of the above acts while committing theft or attempting to commit theft, or while carrying stolen items or attempting to carry stolen property.
Then that act of theft is said to be “robbery.”
In the case of Venugopal v. State of Karnataka, the appellants allegedly stopped and intercepted the victim and while doing the same, robbed her of her gold along with the cash she was carrying by threatening her with a knife. The evidence with the victim, her husband, and the car used convincingly showed the appellants’ participation in the crime of robbery. In the instant case, the offence was committed at night on a public road, not a highway. As a result, the appellants conviction was deemed to be appropriate.
In the following case, it was also observed that robbery is nothing but an aggravated form of theft or extortion. In this case, aggravation is in the use of violence, hard, death, or restraint. The court observed and ruled that the violence must be committed during the course of the theft and not after the theft has already been done. Along with this, the court also ruled that violence is not essential to be done in actuality. Attempting to commit violence is sufficient to get an offence covered under robbery.
- It is necessary that death, restraint or harm must be caused in order to fulfil the goals as stated in the essentials of the offence. However, if the victim simply causes hurt in order to escape the theft then that hurt cannot convert theft into the offence of robbery. It indicates that the mere use of violence does not change a theft into a robbery unless the violence is used for one of the above-mentioned goals. Thus, where the accused left back the stolen stuff and threw stones at the person following him in order to prevent them from continuing their pursuits, in this case, the accused will be guilty of stealing, which means theft rather than robbery.
- The words ‘voluntarily causes’ are important in this section since causing incidental injury does not change the offence to robbery. The harm must be caused voluntarily, for example, if the accused while stealing a nose ring for a woman injured her in the nostril and caused her blood to flow then he would be guilty of robbery.
- Valuable security under Section 30, IPC means document or pretends to be a document with a help of whom any legal right could be formed, extended, transferred, restricted, extinguished, or released, or by which any person admits that he has some sort of legal liability, or that document also tell that that person does not have a specific legal right.
In one case, wristwatch of D was robbed by A in a railway compartment as the train arrived near a station. After that act of robbery, D raised an alert. Due to the raising of the alert, B slapped D, and then both A and B got out of the compartment and escaped. Soon after this incident, both of them were found drinking tea from a tea stall that was near the railway station. Under this case, both A and B would be found guilty under Section 392 of the IPC read with Section 34 of the IPC because they caused harm to D in furtherance of their common intention to commit theft as B assisted D in carrying away the stolen items.
When the following essentials/conditions are met, extortion becomes robbery:
- When there is an offender who commits extortion by putting another person in fear of immediate death, immediate harm or of immediate wrongful restraint.
- The offender then induces the same fearful person to deliver the property at that exact moment.
- The offender in the above act must be in presence of such a fearful person at the time of extortion.
Then that act of extortion is known as robbery.
In order to simplify these essentials, we can say that for extortion to become robbery, the criminal must be present before the person who is threatened with injury. This section’s explanation states that a person is considered to be present if he is close enough to create a fear of instant death, instant harm, or instant unlawful restraint. Extortion becomes robbery if the offender, due to his presence, is capable of carrying out this threat immediately. That is, the victim gives away the property in order to protect himself or any related person who is naturally interested in the person robbed with the imminent threat of injury, and so, in order to avoid injury to that person, he delivers the goods demanded by the criminal.
A pulls out a knife and points it at B, telling C that if she does not give over her gold pendant, he would kill his son. C hands over the pendent to A. A commits robbery because he extorts the pendant by placing B’s life at immediate risk.
A police officer takes an ornament from ‘B’ by creating fear in him that he will be arrested immediately and not be released for months. Under this clause, the police officer is guilty of robbery.
How is robbery different from theft, extortion and dacoity
Robbery and theft
There are various differences between robbery and theft, which are mentioned below:
- Theft is primarily a crime against property as no fear is caused whereas robbery is a crime against both property and humans as hurt or fear to hurt can be caused under robbery though both offences can be seen as similar in the sense that they both involve the unlawful taking of someone else’s property.
- Theft is defined as the taking of property from the owner’s possession without the owner’s consent whereas robbery is an aggravated or enhanced form of theft; the use of force converts a theft offence into a robbery offence.
- Robbery is a more serious offence than theft and the offender is likely to face prison time. It is a crime against a human and it includes a violent aspect.
- A victim is always present during a robbery. However, there is no such thing as a victim in theft; only the owner of the stolen property tends to suffer a wrongful loss of that property and may or may not be present during theft.
- Theft can only be committed with regard to movable property whereas robbery can be committed with regard to both immovable and movable property.
- The punishment for theft can range from three years in prison to a fine or both, whereas the punishment for robbery can range from ten years in prison and a fine.
Robbery and extortion
There are very minute differences between robbery and extortion. Robbery is only a subcategory of extortion. Both robbery and extortion have the same basic concept.
- In a robbery, the victim’s property or valuables are taken away without the victim’s consent whereas in extortion, the victim’s property or valuables are taken away with his consent, regardless of the victim being unwilling.
- In a robbery, the victim faces an immediate physical threat whereas in extortion, the victim faces an immediate as well as future threat of many kinds such as loss of money, the life of a loved one, reputation and so on.
- In the case of robbery, the criminal is punished under Section 392 IPC with rigorous imprisonment for a time period that may be extended up to 10 years and a fine and if the robbery is committed on any highway between sunset and sunrise then the imprisonment may extend up to 14 years. In case of extortion, a criminal is punished under Section 384 IPC with imprisonment for a term that may extend to 3 years or a fine or both.
- The suit for robbery is triable in a court of the magistrate of the first class, whereas the claim for extortion is triable in any magistrate’s court.
Robbery and dacoity
Robbery and dacoity are both similar offences with few differences between them.
- Robbery is an aggravated kind of theft or extortion in which there is a threat of death or serious bodily harm or wrongful restraint whereas dacoity is a type of robbery in which there are minimum members required that is at least five culprits required who worked together to accomplish the crime.
- Section 392 of the IPC deals with the punishment for robbery, which is up to 10 years in prison and a fine whereas Section 395 of the IPC deals with the punishment for dacoity, which might extend to life imprisonment or up to 10 years in prison with a fine.
- Robbery is only punished at the attempt and commission stage of the offence whereas dacoity is the only offence in the IPC that is punished at all stages of the offence which are intention, preparation, attempt and commission.
- Robbery is tried before a Magistrate of the First Class whereas dacoity is tried before the Court of Session.
- Robbery can be committed by 1 person but for the offence of dacoity minimum of 5 persons are required to take part in the offence.
- Robbery is a less severe crime than dacoity since there is only one offender in a robbery but there are 5 or more in dacoity. As a larger group of persons may bring more harm to the victim, the crime of dacoity is regarded as more serious than robbery.
Summarization of the distinction between robbery, theft, extortion and dacoity
|Basis of distinction||Robbery||Theft||Extortion||Dacoity|
|Consent||Under this offence, the offender takes away the property without lawful consent. Robbery is also an aggravated type of theft or extortion.||In theft, movable property is stolen without the owner’s consent.||The person’s consent is gained unlawfully through coercion.||There is no consent, or it was obtained unlawfully.|
|Force||Force under the offence of robbery may or may not be used.||There is no element of coercion or force.||Extortion is the use of force or coercion, with the victim being put in fear of harm to himself or others.||Force may or may not be employed.|
|Number of offenders||It can be committed by one or more individuals.||It can be committed by one or more individuals||Extortion can be committed by one or more individuals.||To commit the crime of dacoity, at least five people must be present.|
|Subject matter||Robbery can be committed against movable property, but it cannot be committed against immovable property unless it is in the form of extortion.||Theft can be of moveable goods only.||Extortion can be of movable as well as immovable property.||Dacoity may be committed in relation to immovable property in the form of extortion, but not otherwise.|
|Element of fear||There is an element of fear present.||There is no fear factor.||There is an element of fear present.||Dacoity contains an element of fear.|
|Delivery of property||If robbery is a form of theft, then there is no delivery of property; otherwise, there can be.||The victim does not deliver goods.||Property is being delivered through extortion.||If a theft occurs during the act of dacoity, there is no delivery of property.|
|Punishment||Robbery is punishable by imprisonment for a term that may stretch to 10 years as well as a fine. If the robbery occurs on a highway between sunset and sunrise, the sentence may be increased to 14 years.||In this case, the offender is sentenced to imprisonment of any kind for a period of up to 3 years or a fine or both.||Extortion is punishable by imprisonment of any kind for a time that can be stretched to 3 years, a fine, or both.||Dacoity is punishable with life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for a term that may be extended to 10 years along with a fine.|
Punishment for robbery under Section 392 of IPC
The punishment for robbery is mentioned in Section 392 of the IPC. It states that an offender of robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment, which may extend to ten years as well as shall also be liable for a fine. Furthermore, if the robbery is committed on a highway between sunset and sunrise, i.e., at night, the prison term may be enhanced to 14 years.
There are other sections too that cover punishment related to the crime of robbery in different cases. These punishments are covered in Sections 393 and 394 of the IPC.
Section 393 IPC declares that even attempting to commit robbery is punishable by rigorous imprisonment for up to 7 years as well as being liable for a fine.
Section 394 IPC declares that if the offender voluntarily causes injury in an attempt to commit robbery, the offender and any accomplice with him/ her shall be punished with life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and also be liable to a fine.
Essential features of Section 392 IPC
As covered earlier, Section 392 covers punishment for the offence of robbery. There are various essentials to be fulfilled before such punishment could be awarded to the criminal liable under robbery. Its essentials are as follows:
- The accused committed theft.
- Voluntarily caused or attempted to cause death, bodily harm or wrongful restraint and feared instant death, bodily harm, or wrongful restraint.
- The accused committed either act for the purpose of committing theft or while committing theft, carrying away or the attempt to carry away property acquired by theft.
If all the above essentials are met, punishment under Section 392 of the IPC can be awarded to the criminal liable for robbery.
Important case laws
In Harish Chandra v. State of U.P. (1976), when the victim boarded the train at Chakarpur railway station, the accused, co-accused and other person entered the same compartment. When the train arrived at Thankpur railway station around 9:30 p.m., some passengers began to exit the compartment, resulting in a huge rush. At that point, the accused forcibly removed the victim’s wristwatch, and when the victim raised an alarm, the co-accused jumped out of the compartment. They were followed by the victim as well. After all of the accused were caught and their stolen stuff was recovered. The robbery was charged against both of the accused. The defence argued that because the victim was slapped after the watch was stolen, the hurt could not be said to have been caused in order to commit the theft and thus bring the offence under Section 390 IPC. The argument that the co-accused slapped the victim in order for the accused to carry away the stolen property was rejected by the Supreme Court. Under the circumstances, it would clearly fall under the provisions of Section 390, IPC, because the section states that theft is robbery if harm is caused while carrying or attempting to carry away the stolen property. Both accused were found guilty of robbery by the Supreme Court.
In Harinder Singh v. State of Punjab (1993), the accused worked for Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation in Kapurthala as a gunman. He robbed an assistant cashier in the same corporation and stole Rs 32,936 and in addition, it also caused injuries to the cashier. The accused then locked the cashier in a room and bolted the door from the outside. After the accused had left, the cashier made a scene by raising a hue and cry. When the police arrived, they noticed the cashier confined in the room and evidence of the robbery. Serious injuries were also observed on the cashier’s body. The accused were found guilty of robbery by the Supreme Court.
In State of Maharashtra v. Joseph Mingel Koli and Ors., it was held that in order to establish the offence of robbery by committing the offence of theft, it was necessary to prove all five essential elements specified in Section 378 of the IPC, which is said to constitute theft, are fulfilled. If any of the five elements of Section 378 are not fulfilled while committing theft, then the offence of robbery under Section 390 cannot be said to have been committed.
Robbery, as defined by Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, will always involve either theft or extortion. Robbery is the most severe form of extortion or theft. As a result, in order to constitute theft amounting to robbery or extortion amounting to robbery, the necessary ingredients of theft as defined in Section 378 and extortion as defined in Section 383, must be met positively. However, for extortion to become robbery or theft to become robbery, there must be an element of immediate threat, injury, or death. This is the defining feature of robbery. However, robbery must also be distinguished from dacoity, which requires a minimum of five people to constitute an offence of dacoity. As a result, it is important to understand the distinctions between the four offences as well as their respective punishments. The offences are frequently seen as the same/ similar by the common people, but in the legal field, they are considered different offences.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is the offence of robbery compoundable and bailable offence?
No, Robbery is neither a compoundable nor a bailable offence but a cognizable offence.
What is the distinction between attempting to theft and attempting to robbery?
Theft and robbery are both distinct offences, and their attempts also have distinct elements. The main distinction between attempting to commit theft and attempting to commit robbery is that an attempt to commit theft is not punishable under the IPC, whereas an attempt to commit robbery is punishable under Section 393 of the Indian Penal Code, with rigorous imprisonment of up to 7 years and a fine.
Is robbery synonymous with theft?
According to Section 390, all types of robberies involve either theft or extortion, indicating that a robbery is an aggravated form of theft. Robbery is a blanket concept for theft because it involves the use of violence to fulfil the offence of theft.
In which court will an offence related to section 392 IPC be heard?
Offences related to Section 392 IPC will be heard in Judicial Magistrate First Class Court.
- Book on Indian Penal Code by S.N. Misra
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