Offences Against Property: Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity

Offences Against Property: Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity

Theft, extortion, robbery and dacoity are offences against property and the object of all the offences is wilful wrongful gain of property or causing wrongful loss to another

Theft

Principle:​​ Whoever, intending to take dishonestly any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that persons consent, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft.

Following are the essential​​ ingredients of theft:

  • Dishonest intention:​​ ​​ intention of taking the property must be dishonest i.e. there should be an intention to cause wrongful gain to oneself or wrongful loss to another. It is not necessary that there should be permanent loss or gain; even if any temporary loss or gain is caused it is sufficient to constitute dishonest intention. Taking a property under good faith or under a mistake does not amount theft.

  • Type of property:​​ ​​ the subject matter of theft is movable property. Movable property includes every kind of corporeal property except land and things attached or permanently​​ fastened​​ to the earth. However when an immovable property​​ is completely severed from the earth, it then becomes movable property and subject matter of theft.

Eg. ​​​​ A​​ tree is not a subject matter of theft until its root​​ is​​ attached to the earth but when it is severed it becomes the subject matter of theft.

It is not necessary that the thing stolen must have some appreciable value. A human body, whether living or dead (except bodies or portions thereof, or mummies, preserved in museums, etc.) cannot be the subject of theft.

  • Taking out of possession: the real test of theft is possession and not ownership. Theft is committed when a property is dishonestly moved out of possession; it is not necessary that the person from whose possession the property is taken is the true owner or has the real title of the property.​​ ​​ Hence there can be theft of one’s own property.​​ Possession can be immediate i.e. in the immediate control e.g. phone in the pocket or constructive i.e. having a control but not immediate e.g. car in parking.

However, once the property is lost, all types of possession are lost over it and it no more remains the subject matter of theft. Removing ornaments from a dead body is not theft as the dead body is not in the constructive possession of any person. In all such cases the person will be liable for criminal misappropriation.​​ 

  • Without consent:​​ In order to constitute theft the property must have been taken without the consent of the person in​​ whose possession the property rests. The consent may be express​​ i.e. through words​​ or implied​​ i.e. through conduct​​ and may be given either by the person in possession or by any authorized person.​​ Consent obtained through misrepresentation is not a valid consent.

  • Moving:​​ The offence of theft is complete a​​ soon as the property is moved in order to such taking .What is important​​ is the simple movement of the property from its original position and not its actual taking away. Hence, a person becomes guilty of theft if he has moved the property​​ with dishonest intention from its original position​​ even if​​ it is not in his possession.

Extortion​​ 

Principle:​​ Whoever intentionally puts any person in fear of any injury to that person, or to any other, and thereby dishonestly induces the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property, or valuable security or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security, commits “extortion”.

Following are the essential ingredients of extortion:

  • Putting any person​​ in fear: fear refers to the unsettle state of mind of​​ the person on whom it operates. It is immaterial whether the accusation is true or false and also the guilt or innocence of the party threatened is not important to constitute theft.​​ 

Injury denotes any harm illegally caused to any person’s body, mind, property or reputation. However the injury contemplated must be one which can be inflicted or caused to be inflicted by the accused; a threat that God will punish you for the sins or a curse will fall upon you is no threat.

Threat can be inflicted to that very person or any other person who may be related to him through blood, marriage or adoption or any other person.​​ However it is important that the person put in fear holds out to do or omit​​ something which he is legally bound to do; mere promise to do an act does not amount to injury.

  • Dishonest inducement: the inducement to extract the property must be dishonest i.e. the person putting any individual in fear of injury must have the intention to cause wrongful loss or gain. If the accused takes the money believing it that it belongs to him then it will not amount to dishonest inducement.

  • Delivery:​​ ​​ in order to commit extortion it is important that the property induced under threat must be delivered. However the threat may be used by one person and the property may be received by another person and both of them will be guilty of extortion. Before delivery, the offence will be attempt to extortion and once delivery is made the offence becomes extortion.

Delivery may be movable or immovable property or of any valuable security e.g. cheque.

Robbery​​ 

Robbery is a special and aggravated form of either theft or extortion.

When theft becomes robbery:​​ when element of fear force is combined with theft, it is termed as robbery i.e. where the property is removed by the accused without the consent of the victim by using force or fear​​ it amounts to robbery. However the fear must be instant and not distant.​​ Violence may be caused either before, during or after committing theft but it must be caused to meet the ends of theft.​​ A hurt caused only to avoid capture by a thief will not convert theft into robbery.

When extortion becomes robbery:​​ when the offender is present at the time of committing extortion and uses instant fear of​​ death, hurt or wrongful restraint​​ to​​ the victim​​ or any other person​​ and he in turn delivers the property at the very moment under such fear it amounts to robbery.​​ It is very important that the offender must be present in front of the victim.

The hurt caused must be voluntarily i.e. it should not be accidental.

Dacoity

Dacoity is the highest offence against property which is even punishable with death. When 5 or more persons sharing common intention commits robbery​​ or attempts to commit robbery or aids in the commission of robbery, they all become liable for the offence of dacoity. Thus one person may commit or​​ attempt to commit robbery and four other may be present and aiding in its commission or attempt.

Dacoity is the only offence under IPC which is punishable under all four stages of crime i.e. assembling for the purpose of dacoity, preparation, attempt and commission.

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