Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines theft as "Whoever, intending to take dishonestly any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that person's consent, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft".
The provision relating to the offence of theft contains five explanations below the said definition and the explanations are followed by illustrations.
Meaning of Theft
Theft as defined under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code means the dishonest removal of moveable property 'out of the possession of any person' without his consent. Thus the removal of the moveable property should be done dishonestly and without the consent of the owner.
Classification of the offence of Theft
The offence is cognizable, non-bailable, and triable by any Magistrate.
Punishment for the offence of Theft
The punishment for committing theft in the Indian Penal Code is mentioned under Section 379 of the Code as whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Ingredients of Theft
• There must be a dishonest intention of a person to take the property;
• The property must be a moveable property;
• Such moveable property must be taken away;
• The property must be taken away from the possession of another person who has the possession of that property;
• Such property must be taken away without the consent of such other person.
The list of five Explanations attached to the section are as follows:
Explanation 1.- A thing so long as it is attached to the earth, not being movable property, is not the subject of theft; but it becomes capable of being the subject of theft as soon as it is severed from the earth.
Explanation 2.- A moving effected by the same act which affects the severance may be a theft.
Explanation 3.- A person is said to cause a thing to move by removing an obstacle which prevented it from moving or by separating it from any other thing, as well as by actually moving it.
Explanation 4.- A person, who by any means causes an animal to move, is said to move that animal, and to move everything which, in consequence of the motion so caused, is moved by that animal.
Explanation 5.- The consent mentioned in the definition may be express or implied, and may be given either by the person in possession or by any person having for that purpose authority either express or implied.
(a) A cuts down a tree on Z's ground, with the intention of dishonestly taking the tree out of Z's possession without Z's consent. Here, as soon as A has severed the tree in order to such taking, he has committed theft.
(b) A meets a bullock carrying a box of treasure. He drives the bullock in a certain direction, in order that he may dishonestly take the treasure. As soon as the bullock begins to move, A has committed theft of the treasure.
(c) A finds a ring belonging to Z on a table in the house which Z occupies. Here the ring is in Z's possession, and if A dishonestly removes it, A commits theft.
(d) A finds a ring lying on the highroad, not in the possession of any person. A by taking it, commits no theft, though he may commit criminal misappropriation of property.
(e) If A owes money to Z for repairing the watch, and if Z retains the watch lawfully as a security for the debt, and A takes the watch out of Z's possession, with the intention of depriving Z of the property as a security for his debt, he commits theft, in as much as he takes it dishonestly.
(f) Again, if A, having pawned his watch to Z, takes it out of Z's possession without Z's consent, not having paid what he borrowed on the watch, he commits theft, though the watch is his own property in as much as he takes it dishonestly.
(g) A asks charity from Z's wife. She gives money, food, and clothes, which A knows to belong to Z her husband. Here it is probable that A may conceive that Z's wife is authorized to give away alms. If this was A's impression, A has not committed theft.
In the case of Rakesh vs State Of NCT of Delhi (2010), the court held that actual removal of the movable property from the possession of another person is necessary for the commission of the offence of Theft. Till such removal takes place, no offence is committed even if the offender had the dishonest intention to take away the property out of the possession of any person without his/her consent.
Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines Extortion as 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”.
Meaning of Extortion
Extortion is an act to put someone under the fear of injury or any other harm so as to dishonestly induce the person to deliver any property or other valuable item.
(a) A threatens to publish a defamatory libel concerning Z unless Z gives him money. He thus induces Z to give him money. A has committed extortion.
(b) A threatens Z that he will keep Z's child in wrongful confinement, unless Z will sign and deliver to A a promissory note binding Z to pay certain monies to A. Z signs and delivers the note. A has committed extortion.
(c) A threatens to send club-men to plough up Z's field unless Z will sign and deliver to B a bond binding Z under a penalty to deliver certain produce to B, and thereby induces Z to sign and deliver the bond. A has committed extortion.
(d) A, by putting Z in fear of grievous hurt, dishonestly induces Z to sign or affix his seal to a blank paper and deliver it to A. Z signs and delivers the paper to A. Here, as the paper so signed may be converted into a valuable security. A has committed extortion.
Essential ingredients of Extortion
The following are the essential ingredients of Extortion:
- Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury
- Such fear caused by a person must be a fear of injury either to the person who is so put under fear or to someone in which the former person has an interest.
- The fear must be intentionally caused.
- It should be a dishonest intention.
- The purpose of such a dishonest intention is to induce the person so put in fear.
- To deliver property or valuable security.
Section 384 contains the punishment for extortion. Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code reads as under:
"Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both."
Classification of Offence
- The offence is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by any Magistrate.
- Case Law
In the case of Queen v. Nathalirc Mirad, [(1844) 7 WR Cr 28], a Bishop was threatened to reveal his illegitimate relation with a woman. It was held that this act amounts to extortion.
In Dhananjay v. State of Bihar (2007) 14 SCC 768, it was held that the following ingredients would constitute the offence of extortion:
(1) the accused must put any person in fear of injury to that person or any other person.
(2) The putting of a person in such fear must be intentional.
(3) The accused must thereby induce the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property, valuable security, or anything signed or sealed with may be converted into a valuable security.
(4) Such inducement must be done dishonestly.
A distinction between theft and extortion is well-known. Whereas offence of extortion is carried out by over-powering the will of the owner; in the commission of an offence of theft the offender's intention is always to take without that person's consent.
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