KnowCLAT

Offences against Property

There are different types of offences one of them is against the property. Any offence which is committed in regard to any property whether it is movable or immovable is punishable under the provisions of the Law of the Crimes or the Indian Penal Code. Chapter 17 of the Code contains these provisions. Such offences include Crimes like:

  • Theft
  • Extortion
  • Robbery and dacoity
  • Criminal misappropriation of property
  • Criminal Breach of trust
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Cheating
  • Fraudulent deed and disposition of property
  • Mischief
  • Criminal trespass

These offences and the punishments relating to them are explained in details in Section 378 to 460. Let us understand two of the offences against property.

Theft and Extortion

Theft

In simple terms ‘when a person takes away the property from the possession of an individual who is in charge without his consent amounts to theft. Theft has been dealt under Section 378 to Section 382‘. Whoever, planning to take deceitfully and dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any individual without that person’s consent, moves that property, such taking, is called theft according to Section 378, Indian Penal Code.

What constitutes theft?

The first thing we do is break up the definition into parts:

  • Whoever, intending to take dishonestly
  • any moveable property
  • out of the possession of any person
  • without that person consent
  • moves that property in order to take it.

So, now let us understand that to constitute theft what are the essential elements which have to be satisfied.

  • Dishonest intention to take property;
  • The property must be movable;
  • The property should have taken out of the possession of another person;
  • The property should have taken without the consent of that person and,
  • There must be moving of the property in order to accomplish the taking of it.
Elaborated Explanation:
  • Dishonest Intention
    The term ‘dishonestly’ has been duly defined under IPC as ‘whoever does anything with the intention to bring about wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person is said to do that act dishonestly‘. A key factor for dishonest intent is doing any act deliberately. If the property is taken out of possession without any dishonest intention that is without the intention of causing wrongful loss or wrongful loss to anyone, it is not theft.

Example
If you take the car keys of your neighbour, knowing that it’s his, then that’s theft but if you took it thinking it’s your own then that’s not theft. – Simple because there is no ‘dishonesty’ here.

  • The property must be movable
    Property is classified as movable and immovable. Property attached to the earth is considered immovable property. A property so long as it is attached to the earth, which is not a movable property, is not the matter of theft but as soon as it is severed from the earth it becomes capable of being the subject matter of theft.

Example
Param cuts down a tree on Shyam’s ground dishonestly with the intention of taking the tree out of Shyam’s possession without his consent. Here as soon as Param has severed the tree in order to such taking he has committed theft.

  • Out of the possession of another person
    Theft is an offence against possession. Possession means ‘the state of having rights over, owning or controlling a property be it movable or immovable’. In order for a theft to have occurred the property being stolen must be taken from the possession of the owner of that property. The person should be in possession although he may not be the owner of that movable property. It is not relevant how the victim got the possession that is the possession may be lawful or unlawful.

Example
Aleen brought home Yashi’s book without Yashi’s permission. Zeeshan dishonestly took away the book from Aleen’s house. Although Aleen’s possession was unlawful, Zeeshan committed theft because he took the property from Aleen’s possession without his consent.
Ajay finds a ring belonging to Lovika on the table in the house which Samar occupies. Here, the ring is in Samar’s possession and if Ajay dishonestly removes it Ajay commits theft but if Ajay finds a ring lying on the road, not in possession of any person and he takes it, he has not committed any theft.

  • Without the consent of that person
    If a person allows another into taking away his property, it cannot be considered as theft. If the property in question is moved with the consent of the possessor then it is not theft. Consent may be given expressly or impliedly. It can be given by the possessor or anyone who has the authority to give such consent.

Example
Riddhiman who had a job interview in the afternoon entered his good friend Sandeep’s room in his absence he took his watch without his permission with the intention to return it soon after the interview. Here Riddhiman did not commit theft if he took the watch under the expression that he had Sandeep’s implied consent to use the watch.

  • Moving the property – In addition to all the ingredients, there must be the moving of the property with the intention to take it. The moving does not need to be out of the ‘person possession’ but rather simply moving it in any direction with the intention or objective to ultimately move it out of the person’s possession. Also moving it not only constitutes essentially moving it but also committing an act which allows for that property to move.

Example
If a boat is tied up to pier on Zayn’s property and Parag remove the ropes so that it floats into the part of the lake which is his property although he is not physically moving the property, he commits theft

Punishment for Theft

Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code tells us about the punishment for theft. Any individual who commits theft shall be penalized with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to three years or with fine or in some cases with both.

Aggravated forms of Theft;
  • Section 380 – any individual who commits a theft in building, tent or vessel which is used as a human residence or used as the custody of the property
  • Section 381 – Theft committed by a clerk or a servant of property whose possession is with the master
  • Section 382 – Theft committed after the preparation or planning made for causing death, hurt or restraint of an individual in order to the committing of the theft

Extortion

In simple terms, Extortion means making threats to another person or forcing them to give up something they have in their possession. Or it can be defined as when a person put another person in fear of any injury and induces him to deliver any property or valuable security commits extortion.

If a person intentionally puts another person in apposition of fear or of a 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 into a valuable security.

Section 383, Indian Penal Code – The definition of Extortion can be understood by the following illustration –

  • Purva threatens Roshan that she will kill his wife if Roshan failed to pay Rs 1 crore.  This is a clear cut case of extortion against Purva.
  • Ronak threatens Ziva to keep Ziva’s child in wrongful confinement unless Ziva signs an agreement by which Ziva would be bound to pay some money to Ronak and being pressurized by such threat Ziva agrees to signs the agreement. In this case, Ronak has committed the offence of extortion.

The main object of Section 383 is to obtain the delivery of property or any item of value in consequence of an inducement that is dishonest or malafide in nature. To be more precise an intention to cause wrongful loss to one and wrongful gain to another

Now let us understand that to constitute the act of Extortion what are the essential elements to be satisfied

Essential Ingredients of Section 383:
  • A person must intentionally put any person in fear of injury to himself or other
  • inducing the person so put in fear to deliver to any person with the Dishonest intention
  • Any property
  • Valuable security or
  • Anything which is signed and sealed and that can easily be converted into a valuable security
Explanation

Intentionally positioning an individual in fear of injury to himself or another.

The fear so caused must be real or apparent and must an unsettling effect on the mind of the person so threatened which takes away from his acts the element of free consent. The fear can be in respect of injury in mind, body, reputation or property to the person himself or someone else.

  • Arjun, along with his wife and children was travelling in a train when a gang of armed robbers enters the compartment and demands the valuables from all the passengers. Arjun and his wife in fear of getting hurt or losing life in the hands of the robbers hand over them the cash.

Dishonest inducement of a person to deliver any property, valuable security or anything signed and sealed which can be converted into valuable security to any person.

The person so threatened must be induced by the threat that he is must be forced, influenced or pressurized to do as the accused wants him to do. The victim must be asked to deliver any person any property, valuable security or anything signed and sealed which can be converted into a valuable security. Delivery of property is very important in extortion. The property should be delivered to the accused person by the person who is threatened.

Punishment for Extortion:

Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code tell us about the punishment for extortion. Any individual who commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term of 3 years or with fine or in some cases with both.

Section 384, Indian Penal Code – The offence under this section is –

  • Cognizable meaning the police can arrest the person without the warrant
  • Non–Bailable offence that is bail is the matter of the discretion of the court
  • Non-Compoundable mean the question of entering into a compromise doesn’t even arise

Example
Aman threatens to kill the son of Badri if he fails to provide him with a blank signed stamp paper with the malafide intention of extorting from him. Aman has induced Badri to give him a signed stamp paper. A has committed extortion. A could be punished with imprisonment for a term up to 3 years or with fine or with both.

Punishment for the attempt of Extortion

Section 385 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the punishment for an attempt of extortion. Any individual who in order to commit the crime of extortion, puts any person in fear or attempts to put any person in fear of any injury, shall be penalized with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to 2 years or with fine or in some cases with both.

Section 385, Indian Penal Code – It shall be understood that merely putting a person under the fear of injury of any kind is more than enough to attract punishment under this section.

Aggravated forms of Extortion
  • Section 386: Extortion by putting an individual in fear of death or grievous hurt
  • Section 387: Put or attempts to put a person in fear of death or grievous hurt
  • Section 388: Putting any person in threat of an accusation against that person or any other
  • Section 389: Putting any person in fear of accusation of offence in order to commit extortion

Difference between Theft and Extortion

BASIS                THEFT               EXTORTION    
COMMISSION OF ACT Taking property without consent / against the owner will. Intentionally puts any person in fear of injury thereby dishonestly induce to deliver the property to the person 
SUBJECT MATTER The offence of theft can be only committed in respect of the properties which are movable in nature. In case of the crime of extortion, the property can either be a movable property or an immovable property
DELIVERY OF THE PROPERTY There is no delivery of the property by the owner There is the delivery of the property by the owner
ELEMENT OF THE FEAR In theft, there is no element of force or fear In extortion, there is an element of force (fear of injury).

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