This article is written by Suryansh Singh, a 3rd-year law student from Indore Institute of law. This article mainly discusses about the factors which constitutes theft and extortion and the difference between both of them.

Introduction

The offence of Theft comes under the purview of offences against property which extends from section 378 to section 462. Theft has been dealt with under sections 378 to 382. Theft is an offence in which movable property of a person is taken away and it is taken away without his consent.  Theft has been defined under Section 378 of IPC. Simultaneously the punishment for the commitment of act of theft has also been defined under Section 379 of IPC.

What is Theft?

Theft is defined under the Section 378 of The Indian Penal Code as, any person intending to take any movable property without honesty, out of the possession of any person without that individual’s consent, moves that property in order to such taking is said to commit theft.

Essential Ingredients

  • There must be a dishonest intention of an Individual to take that property.
  • The property being taken away has to be movable.
  • Such a property must be taken away from the owner.
  • The property has to be taken away from the possession of an individual. In other words, there has to be a possession of that property by someone.
  • Such a property has to be taken away without the consent of such an individual.

Dishonest Intention

It is also called as malafide intention which can be represented in the form of mens rea. This is the core element of the theft. The petitioner has to prove that something was taken away by someone with a dishonest intention.

However, intention acts as a mental element in this case which is difficult to prove but evidence according to the circumstances of the case is considered for this purpose.  The main measurement of dishonest intention is to make a wrongful loss to another person then such an act is considered to be done with dishonest intention.

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Movable Property

The subject of the theft is movable property. Immovable property cannot be stolen. Movable property is that type of property which is able to move easily and is not stationary or which is not immovable. On the other hand, the kind of property which cannot be moved and is attached to the Earth is considered as immovable property, and it is not the subject of theft. It becomes the subject of theft when it is taken off from the surface of the Earth.

Such a property must be taken away from the owner:

The movable property must be in the possession of another individual from where it is taken away. There is no theft of wild animals, birds or fishes while at large but there is a theft of animals which are owned by someone.

Illustration

Ace finds a locket lying on the road which was in the possession of someone.  An ace by taking it commits no theft, though he may commit criminal misappropriation of property.

The property has been taken away without consent of the owner

The consent can be either expressed or implied and it may be given by either of the persons involved in possession or by any individual having for some purpose expressed or implied authority.

Illustration

Ace has friendly terms with Zoey, he goes into Zoey’s room in her absence, and takes away a book without her express consent for the purpose of merely reading it (with the intention of returning it) Here it is probable that Ace might have conceived that he had Zoey’s implied consent to use her book. If this was Ace’s thought then Ace has not committed theft.

In this case, a government employee took a file from the government office and presented it to someone else, and brought it back to the office after two days of taking it away. It was held in this case that permanent taking away of a person’s property is not essential, even a temporary takeaway of the property with dishonest intention is enough to constitute the offence of theft.

What is the Punishment for theft?

The Punishment for the offence of Theft is defined under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code which states that anyone who commits theft will be pun­ished with imprisonment of either for a term which can be extended to a period of three years either with fine, or with both.

Theft in Dwelling House

Theft in Dwelling houses is defined under Section 380 of the Indian Penal Code, it states that, Any person who commits the offence of theft in a building or a vessel which is used for the purpose of Human dwelling or is being used for the custody of the property will be punished with an imprisonment of a description for a term of seven years (maximum) and it can be less than that also and he shall also be liable to fine.

The word dwelling house means a building or a vessel which is being used by a person for living or remains there permanently or even temporarily. Such as A railway waiting room is a building which is used for human dwelling. Theft of articles from the roof of a house can fall under the section.

What happens when the Theft is done by a servant or clerk of property which is in possession of the master?

When the theft is done by a servant or a clerk who is in possession of anything owned by the master commits theft in respect of any property in the possession of his employer/the master, will be punished with an imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and will also be liable to fine. This is defined under Section 381 of the Indian Penal Code.

What happens when Theft is done after the preparation made for causing death, hurt or restraint in order to the committing of the offence?

Any person who commits theft after having made preparations for causing death, or hurt, or restraint, or fear of death, or of hurt, or of re­straint, to any person, in order to the committing of such theft, or in order to the effecting of his escape after the committing of such theft, or in order for retaining of such property taken by such an offence will be punished with a rigorous imprisonment for a term which can be extend to ten years, and the person will also be liable to fine.

Extortion

Under the Indian penal code, the term extortion has been defined explicitly and how it is constituted. Section 383 of the indian penal code states that if a person intentionally puts another person in a position of fear or of threat to cause him injury, or deceitfully persuade him so that he may deliver the property or any other valuable goods to another person or any document which has been signed and can be turned in a valuable security. Punishment regarding extortion is enshrined under section Section 384 of the Indian penal code.

Essentials of extortion

  • An act which causes imminent threat and injury to a person.
  • The act must be done intentionally and deceitfully.
  • Such a person tends to cause injury to another person in which he seeks interest.
  • An unreasonable force should be shown through which a person seeks to take the property or any other valuable goods of another person or any document.
  • So it can be concluded if a person commits an offence which includes the all the following points as mentioned above then the offence committed is known as extortion.
  • Intention plays an important role. The gravity of such dishonest intention upon the facts and circumstances of a case. For example, if A  takes any valuable stuff from B at point of a gun, then a is an offence of extortion

Illustration

If A who kidnapped B’s child Z, demands a sum of 10,00,000 Rs. from B. all the efforts made by B in order to know whereabouts of his child turned out to be futile. B with all the failed attempts pay the prescribed amount to A. A has committed the offence of extortion.

Queen v. Nathalirc Mirad, [(1844) 7 WR Cr 28]

In the instant case, bishop was threatened in order to expose his illegitimate relation with a woman. This act was considered as an offfence of extortion

Romesh Chandra Arora v. The State (AIR 1960 SC 154)

In the instant case, a boy and a girl was compelled by the accused to take off their clothes. While they were naked several photographs were taken by him. Later these photos were used by the accused in order to extort money from them. This act was considered to be an offence of extortion.

Punishment regarding the offence of extortion (section 384 of IPC)

Under section 384 of the Indian penal code punishment or extortion has been prescribed. A person committing such offence shall be punished with the imprisonment of 3 years or with fine or both.

Putting a person in a place while committing extortion where there is a sense of fear in him that he might get injured

Section 385 of the Indian penal code states that a person while committing the offence of extortion shall be punished with the imprisonment of 2 years or fine or both if he while committing such crime puts another person in fear of injury.

Punishment for extortion committed through putting a person in fear of imminent threat to his life or severe hurt.

Under section 386 of the  Indian penal code if any person commits an offence of extortion while putting a person in a sense of fear of imminent threat to his life which amounts to death or severe hurt to his body shall be held liable for rigorous imprisonment of 10 years or fine.  

Punishment for putting a person in fear of death or severe hurt with the sole purpose of committing extortion

Under section 387 of the Indian penal code, it has been stated that when a person with the sole purpose of committing  extortion puts or attempts to put another person in a position when there is a sense of fear of death or severe hurt to his body shall be punished for imprisonment which may extend to 7 years and is also liable to fine.

When a person commits extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment of life, etc.

When a person commits an offence of extortion by threatening to accuse or attempts to accuse another person of an offence which is punishable with death or with life imprisonment or with the rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years or if the person attempted to persuade any other person to commit  such offence shall be punished with the imprisonment of 10 years and is also liable to pay fine and if the offence is of such nature which is punishable under section 377 of Indian penal code may be punished with life imprisonment

What is the difference between Theft and Extortion?

 

Theft

  • The consent of the owner is not taken by the person taking away the property.
  • The offence of theft can only be committed in respect of properties which are of movable nature.
  • There is no role of force in case of theft.
  • While committing the offence of theft there is no delivery of the property
Extortion

  • The person while committing the offence of extortion takes the consent wrongfully.
  • In case of extortion, the property can either be movable or non-movable.
  • In case of extortion, the property is obtained by putting the person in the state of fear where there is a threat or imminent danger to his life.
  • It includes the delivery of property.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the commission of both theft and extortion is an offence punishable under the Indian penal code. There is a line difference between both of them.  Theft is an offence in which movable property of a person is taken away and it is taken away without his consent. Section 383 of the Indian penal code states that if a person intentionally puts another person in a position of fear or of threat to cause him injury, or deceitfully persuade him so that he may deliver the property or any other valuable goods to another person or any document which has been signed and can be turned in a valuable security.

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