Dacoity and its punishments

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Dacoity

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Dacoity means an act of violent robbery committed by an armed gang. There is no difference between robbery and dacoity except in the number of offenders. Robbery is dacoity, if the persons committing robbery are five or more in number. In Malaysia and Singapore dacoity is termed as ‘gang robbery‘. The offence of dacoity consists in the cooperation of five or more persons to commit or attempt to commit robbery. It is necessary that all the persons should share the common intention of committing robbery.  

On a plain reading of Section 391, IPC it would appear that in order that a dacoity can be said to have been committed, it is necessary that five or more persons conjointly commit a robbery or attempt to commit robbery. If a robbery was committed, the dacoits would have the booty with them, but if the matter rested only with an attempt to commit a robbery there would be no question of the dacoits having any booty with them.[1]

Section 391 in The Indian Penal Code – Dacoity

When five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit “dacoity”[2]

Illustration: Where the accused and his companions who numbered five or more than five attempted to commit robbery at the house of A, but on a hue and cry being raised took to their heels without committing robbery, the offence of dacoity was completed the moment they took to their heels without any booty. There was attempt to commit robbery and the accused would be guilty of an offence of dacoity and would be punishable under this section.

Essentials Ingredients

1. The accused commit or attempt to commit robbery;

2. Persons committing or attempting to commit robbery and person present and aiding must not be less than 5;

3. All such person should act conjointly.

The word conjointly refers to the united or concerted action of 5 or more persons participating in the act of committing the offence. In other words, 5 or more person should be concerned in the commission of the offence and they should commit or attempt to commit robbery.

Burden of proof [3]

As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to identify the accused in the offence of dacoity. The prosecution must establish:

(i) that five or more persons jointly committed the offence; or

(ii) that one or more of the attempted or committed to commit robbery; and

(iii) that others were present and aiding such commission or attempt.

If the dacoity is committed by unknown persons, wearing veils in the dark nights it is highly difficult to establish their identity. Without identity of the accused, the Courts could not impose punishment. However there are three kinds of evidence generally available in robbery or dacoity.

First occasion, when the offenders are caught red-handed on the spot by the villagers. It is somewhat difficult in majority dacoities. The reason is that the villagers or residents do not wear the weapons. The accused wear deadly weapons and attack the complainants with courage and pre­plan.

Second occasion, when the wrong-doers are arrested in some other cases and they disclose their previous offences during the interrogation and investigation by the police in other cases.

Third occasion, arises when the offender or offenders sell the stolen property after dacoity in another place. Such property and those accused are red-handedly caught.

Section 395 – Punishment for dacoity

Whoever commits dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous impris­onment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 395 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Case References

The State vs Sadhu Singh and Ors. [4]

The four accused as well as one Kurda Singh five in all, armed with deadly weapons such as a rifle and a pistol committed a dacoity at the house of Gharsiram in the course of which they caused injuries to Gharsiram Jugalkishore, Basantilal and Sandal. They also relieved Santlal of a wrist watch and a shawl which he was carrying on his person but since there was a hue and cry which had attracted the attention of the villagers who collected at the spot the dacoits were not able to take away any booty with them However, when the dacoits were retreating, they were given a hot chase by the villagers and in order to have a safe retreat, one of the dacoits is alleged to have fired a shot as a result of which Dharma died. But the brave villagers also succeeded in capturing one of the dacoits.

Shankar and Ors. vs. State of A.P., Rep. By Its Public [5]

It is the case of the prosecution that the accused went to Kalamadugu village in a jeep armed with knives and sticks and stopped the same in front of the house. They wanted to the owner to open the door by declaring that they are Police and came to verify whether PW.2 was providing any food to the Naxalites. The owner opened the door. Four of the accused dragged him towards the Jeep and threatened him to hand over the golden ornaments. When he did not comply with the same, they went into the house, searched his Kirana shop, threatened his wife and took away the golden ornaments weighing about 50 grams, a wrist watch and other items worth about Rs.17,5000/-. At each of the houses, they have committed similar dacoity by threatening the inmates of the houses. A night halt bus of APSRTC was parked near the Gram Panchayat Office. They threatened the Conductor who was sleeping therein and took away the cash of Rs.567/-. Complaint was submitted in the morning.

Abdul Kalam vs. State of Rajasthan [6]

In the night when Vishwas and his wife Renu Jain were sleeping in their house, five persons entered the house and tied their servant Chaturbhuj who was sleeping in the basement of the house. Thereafter, the accused also tied the mouth, hands and legs of Vishwas Jain and his wife Renu and then bolted them inside the bathroom and having threatened them at the point of pistol and knife; the accused looted the gold and silver ornaments, coins and cash. The miscreants stayed in their house for about an hour. Complainant Vishwas managed to come out of the bathroom through a window and then telephonically informed the police personnel of Police Station, Malviya Nagar, Jaipur. On receiving the information, the police party reached the house of complainant, where complainant submitted a written report, whereupon a case for offence under Section 395 IPC was registered.

Section 396– Dacoity with murder

If anyone of five or more persons, who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, or rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Section 396 of the Code fixes joint liability on all the persons causing murder who conjointly commit dacoity.  

Ingredients 

To invoke Section 396 of the Indian Penal Code, following conditions must be satisfied.

  • Dacoity was committed 
  • Five or more persons conjointly committed dacoity 
  • One or more of them Committed Murder
  • The murder was committed during the commission of Dacoity.[7]

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 396 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Case References 

Om Prakash vs. State[8] 

The offence of robbery and murder took place at the dead of Night there was official moonlight and Lantern light in a blink eyewitness to identify all the accused. Held, the offence under section 396 IPC was proper.

Abul Mian & Ors. vs. State of Jharkhand[9]

Hatim Ansari (deceased) was sleeping in his house along with his wife. He woke up by the sound of jumping of somebody in his house by scaling boundary wall. The person who trespassed opened the door from inside. The appellants and other entered into the house and demanded keys of the box that contained money. When the key was not given to them, they threw a bomb in front of the appellant which hit him right in the stomach above waist resulting in injuries. Therefore the wife handed over the keys. They assaulted the appellant and his wife with lathis and were asking about old money and ornaments. The informant died during treatment after 7 days of the incident.

Shyam Behari vs. State Of Uttar Pradesh [10]
The appellant had been charged inter alia with having committed an offence under Section 396, Indian Penal Code, along with other persons committed dacoity in the house of Mendai and that in the commission of such dacoity, murder was committed by one of the members. The learned Sessions Judge found that the appellant, and others, had entered the house of Mendai with intent to commit a robbery but were foiled in the attempt owing to Mendai and Ganga having raised a hue and cry. The residents of Banni Purwa and the adjoining “Abadi” of village Banni arrived on the scene and the appellant and his companions, without collecting any booty, ran away from the house of Mendai. They were chased by Mendai and Ganga and when they were crossing the ditch of Pipra Farm, Mendai caught hold of one dacoit. Another dacoit who was identified by several witnesses as the appellant thereupon fired a pistol shot which hit Mendai and Mendai fell to the ground and was removed to the hospital where he died. The appellant shot and killed Mendai to secure the release of one of his companions and also to ensure their safe retreat. The appeal of the appellants was dismissed by the High Court and the death sentence passed by the Learned Sessions Judge was confirmed upon them.

Section 397– Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt.

If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any per­son, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years.

Ingredients

  • Robbery or Dacoity was committed;
  • The accused used deadly weapons or caused grievous hurt or attempted to cause death;
  • During Commission of Robbery or Dacoity such weapons was used.

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 397 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Case References

Shravan Dashrath Datrange vs. State of Maharashtra [11]

The case involved that an act would only fall within the mischief of this section if at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon or causes grievous hurt to any person or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any person.

State of Maharashtra vs. Vinayak Tukaram Utekar [12]

Court held that there can be no quarrel that knife is a deadly weapon within the meaning of section 397.

Bhurekhan vs. State of Madhya Pradesh [13]

When identification of articles alleged to have been recovered from accused is not properly proved nor victim could identify accused in identification parade or in court accused cannot be convicted under section 397.

Section 398– Attempt to commit robbery or dacoity when armed with deadly weapon[14]

If at the time of attempting to commit robbery or dacoity, the offender is armed with any deadly weapon, the im­prisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years.

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 398 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Section 399– Making preparation to commit dacoity

Whoever makes, any preparation for committing dacoity, shall be punished with rigor­ous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Ingredients 

  • The act of accused person amounted preparation;
  • The presence of five or more persons making preparation
  • The preparation was to commit robbery 

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 399 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Section 400– Punishment for belonging to gang of dacoits

Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall belong to a gang of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing dacoity, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Ingredients

To invoke Section 400 of the Indian Penal Code, following conditions must be satisfied.

  • There is existence of a gang of dacoits;
  • The Accused belong to that gang ; and
  • The members of the gang were associated for the purpose of committing dacoity.

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 400 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Section 401– Punishment for belonging to gang of thieves

Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall belong to any wandering or other gang of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing theft or robbery, and not being a gang of thugs or dacoits, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Ingredients [15] 

Following ingredients must be established under this Section –

  • Persons were associated for the purpose of committing theft or Robbery.  
  • There was a gang of persons 
  • Their object was to commit theft or robbery habitability
  • That the accused joined that group.

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 401 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Magistrate of First Class.  

Section 402– Assembling for purpose of committing dacoity

Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall be one of five or more persons assembled for the purpose of committing dacoity, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Ingredients

To bring an action under Section 402 of the code following facts must be proved. 

  • Five or more persons are assembled;
  • That the persons are assembled for committing dacoity
  • That the accused was one of the five or more persons assembled 

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 402 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Judicial Pronouncements

Arjun Ganpat Sandbhor vs. State of Maharashtra [16]

The driver of a truck was killed and the truck was taken away by the dacoits. This incident took place in the darkness. The Evidence of son of deceased, who was in the truck at time of the incident, is not free from doubt. He is categorically admitted that he used to have forgetting tendency at time of incident. Test identification parade was not held according to guidelines prescribed under Criminal Manual. In the view of totality of the evidence accused was entitled to acquittal.

Md Imamuddin & Anr. vs. State of Bihar [17]

The plea was to reduce the punishment for dacoity. Some were accused to commit dacoity in a running train. They were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 7 years and 2 years for respective offences. The accused have remained in custody for substantial amount of time, about 50 per cent of the punishment. Their punishment was reduced to half and which they have already passed the time in imprisonment.

Raman Lakha vs. State Of Gujarat [18]

The complainant Gagabhai Lakhabhai Chauhan resided at village Ghodasar, Near Mahi Canal, with his family. Near his house, three more houses of his brothers were also situated. His three brothers were convicted for riot cases. They were thus in Vadodara jail. Late at night at about 10 clock, he heard a scorching sound of a car outside his house. He woke up and went out to answer the nature‘s call at which time, about 10 people came out from the said car. They first asked for water. After 3 or 4 of them had water, they accused the complainant of being involved in dealing in charas and ganja and demanded to search his house. They took away cash and valuables, such as ornaments from his house as also his television set. They thereafter, went to the houses of the brothers of the complainant and similarly took away valuable articles. The accused were not immediately arrested. On 2.6.2009, five of them, that is, barring accused No.5 were found loitering in suspicious circumstances. They were detained for questioning. They were arrested on the suspicion of being involved in several offences, including the present one. Test identification parades were carried out. They were identified by several witnesses.

Mohammad Israel vs. State Of Bihar [19]

The informant Md. Enamul Haque was at his house and was teaching the children. In the meantime, some dacoits, who had covered their faces entered into his house. Tarannum Ara, who happens to be the informant’s daughter, was cooking food inside the house at that time. Seeing one of the dacoits, she railed halla that a mad man had entered into the house, whereupon, the man told her that he and his associates were dacoits. Simultaneously, 7-8 other dacoits entered into the house. 4-5 dacoits surrounded the informant and remaining dacoits started taking out the articles. The dacoits picked up a double barrel gun belonging to the informant and snatched ornaments from his wife and daughters. Thereafter, all the dacoits fled away. It is said that the informant’s daughter Tarannum Ara identified one of the dacoits, who had pistol in his hand and had covered his face. He was Mohammad Israel, son-in-law of her neighbour Yusuf Mian. The informant also claimed to have identified him while he was running away. The informant gave the description of other dacoits and claimed to identify them in the light of the lantern and debris. On halla, several persons of the locality reached at the house of the informant and saw the dacoits running away. It is said that the dacoits also exploded 4-5 bombs to terrorise the villagers due to which the villagers could not chase the dacoits and the dacoits succeeded in fleeing away with the looted gun as well as ornaments.

Satya Narain Choube vs. State Of Madhya Pradesh [20]

It has been has found that these accused along with others (total 5 or more), committed dacoity in the house of Babulal. The dacoits exploded Bombs in the house beat the inmates of the house including ladies and looted them of their cash, ornaments and utensils. When the neighbours came to help the inmates of the house, on their hue and cry, the dacoits threw Bombs and one Bomb exploded at Chhedilal neighbour, who died as a result of this explosion and resultant injuries. The trial Court found that though the identity of other dacoits could not be established and they could not be arrested, yet they were more than 5 dacoits in all who participated in this dacoity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Burglary, dacoity, robbery and theft are all different crimes under the IPC. How do we differentiate?

Extortion, theft, robbery and dacoity:

Extortion occupies a middle place between theft and robbery or dacoity. Dacoity is robbery by five or more persons conjointly committed or attempted to be committed. Robbery, on the other hand, is a special and aggravated form of either theft or extortion. Theft is robbery if in the course of it the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any peers death hurt or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death hurt or wrongful restraint. Thus if hurt is actually caused when the offence is committed the offence is punishable as robbery. Extortion is robber if the former is accompanied violence (i.e by putting the person in fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful restraint), presence of the offender and delivery of the thing extorted. 
Extortion differs from theft inasmuch as in the former there is he wrongful obtaining of consent by putting the person in possession of property in fear of injury to him or to any other. The offence of extortion is carried out by overpowering the will of the owner. In heft there is never the intention of the offender to obtain the consent of the owner of the property. Moreover, in theft the property involved of is movable property but in case of extortion it maybe any

Distinction between theft, extortion and robbery:

(i) Consent: In theft, offender takes without the owner’s consent. In extortion, offender takes by the wrongful obtaining consent. Robbery is an aggravated form of theft or extortion. Offender takes without consent. 
(ii) Property: Theft can he committed in respect of movable property only. Extortion can be committed in respect of any property movable as well as immovable. In robbery, immovable property is involved only if it is a form of extortion, not otherwise. 
(iii) Force: In theft, no force is involved. In extortion, the property is obtained by putting intentionally that person or any other in fear of injury, in robbery, force may or may not be used according to as robbery is a form of theft or extortion.

Robbery and dacoity:

The essence of the difference between the two lies only in the number of person involved in the Hence. Dacoity is robbery committed by five or more persons. Further, dacoity is the offence for which the preparation is sufficient constitute the offence.

2. Why is preparation of murder not punishable while preparation for dacoity a punishable offence?

In criminal law, Crime=Actus Reus+Mens Rea.

Now, Actus Reus means the actual act, and Mens Rea means a guilty mind. An act becomes a crime only when both are present. Thus, the general rule is that both elements must be present. However there are exceptions. Usually, intention no matter how evil is not punishable. One of the reasons behind is that, it is very difficult to prove what someone’s intention was in the court until he actually commits the crime. However in some exceptional cases, intention becomes liable to be proven in the court and thus is punishable even though no Actus Reus is there.

Preparation to commit murder is not punishable because it can never be adequately proven in the court that the preparation was made with an intention to commit murder. When it finally reaches the stage it can be proven, it already becomes an attempt.

Suppose A purchases a gun to murder B, even though it amounts to preparation to commit a murder, in the court it will be almost impossible to prove that the gun was purchased to murder B. Even if A walks out from his home towards B’s home with the gun in his hand, the mens rea or guilty intention cannot be actually proven till he actually shoots at B, at which stage it will already become an attempt and thus punishable u/s 307 IPC.

Now, in the case of Dacoity, the moment 5 or more people assemble with the intention to commit robbery, it already goes beyond the preparation stage, it becomes a pseudo attempt.

Unlike murder, when 5 people assemble, and make preparations such as procuring the tools to commit such robbery like rope, cutters, weapons etc., the guilty mind or the intention to commit robbery can easily be proven, as the acts are co joined and thus tell the story themselves.Thus, it is punishable.

Example. A,B,C,D,and E, procure guns and tools for house breaking and march towards Z house with an intention to commit robbery. Before they are actually able to rob the house or even reach the house, they are apprehended by police. Even though they never committed or attempted to commit the robbery, their mala fide intention can easily be proven beyond doubt in the court.

3. Is the offence of Dacoity an offence against an individual or a society?

The offence of Dacoity by anyone whether an individual or a society is same offence and under IPC section 391 is applicable and section 395 IPC is for punishment of dacoity whoever the section is imposed for dacoity may be punished under 395 IPC extend to ten years of imprisonment with labour and fine both as well non- bailable. Dacoity between morning and evening means afternoon on public road, the extension of imprisonment is more than ten years extended to fourteen years with labour and heavy fine. In such case where five or more than five persons execute turns robbery to dacoity hence section 120- B is also applicable with section 391 and 395 added 120-B of doing conspiracy for certain crime.

4. What is the logic behind the number of people difference to differentiate between Dacoity and Robbery?

When someone uses criminal force, wrongfully restrains, causes fear of death (during theft) or causes fear of instant death (during extortion), to take a property of another person, he is said to do the act of robbery. When 5 or more persons are involved in it , it s called dacoity. So dacoity is an aggrevated form of robbery. Every person is equally liable regardless of the intensity of their involvement in dacoity.

Edited by Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

References

[1] Mayank Skekhar, Robbery and Dacoity – Meaning and important provisions, https://www.legalbites.in/law-notes-ipc-robbery-and-dacoity/

[2] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, Indian Penal Code, Thirty-Fifth Edition

[3] Shekhar, supra note 1

[4] 1972 WLN 677

[5] 2003 Cri LJ 2242

[6] 14 March, 2008 Appeal (Crl.) 489 of 2008

[7] Tatheer Fatima, Dacoity under IPC, https://www.indianbarassociation.org/dacoity-under-ipc/

[8] AIR 1956 All 163

[9] 2012 Cri LJ 883

[10] AIR 1957 SC 320

[11] (1997) 2 Crimes 47 (Bom)

[12] (1997) 2 Crimes 615 (Bom)

[13] (1982) SCC (Cr) 128.

[14] Advocate John, DACOITY – DEFINITION AND PUNISHMENTS UNDER IPC, http://www.pathlegal.in/Dacoity—Definition-and-Punishments-under-IPC-blog-1234631 , (last updated on Aug, 24, 2017)

[15] John, supra note 14

[16] 2012 Cri LJ 2974

[17] 2013 Cri LJ 269

[18] 10 October, 2013, The High Court of Gujarat at Ahmadabad.

[19] 2008 Cri LJ

[20] 1999 (1) MPLJ 478

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Akshita Piplani
I am Akshita Piplani pursuing LLB from New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune.Apart from being a confident speaker, I am hardworking, meticulous and a keen learner.I have also participated in a plethora of competitions including debates,moot competition, ,quizes,etc.The injustices of the world bother me since childhood and I always wanted to be able to make a difference by helping people around me to find the right way to deal with maze of life.I have a great passion in Legal areas dealing with company law, intellectual property and drafting.I have the ability to stay calm under pressure with good time management skills.Besides learning stuff,I love playing badminton, watching good movies, love to sing and explore new music.It is my hope that my blog will encourage people to step out of their comfort zone allowing society to maintain the process of societal order and therefore it has a big impact on everyone's lives.

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