Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity

heft (section 378, IPC)

Anyone who moves any moveable property out of the possession of another without the consent of that person with the intention of taking that property dishonestly is said to commit theft.

Thus, in order to constitute theft, the following five elements are essential:

  1. It should be a moveable property. The section specifically mentions moveable property and thus it clearly does not intend to include immoveable property in its purview. Moveable property has been defined in section 22 of the IPC as “corporeal property of every description, except land and things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything which is attached to the earth”. However, it is also expressly mentioned in the explanations of section 378 that things attached to the land may become moveable property severance from the earth and this severance would itself constitute theft.
  2. It should be in the possession of anyone. Possession exists in one whenever he has physical control, whether rightful or wrongful, over a corporeal property.
  3. There must be dishonest intention. It exists when an act is done with the aim of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another (as defined in section 24, IPC).
  4. Without the consent of the person in possession of the property. Consent can be express or implied.
  5. Moving or taking. There must be moving of the property with the intention to take it.

Extortion (section 383, IPC)

Extortion.—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”.

Thus the essential ingredients of extortion are:

  1. Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury
  2. The purpose of which is to dishonestly induce the person put in fear (this includes injuries to mind, reputation or property of the person
  3. To deliver property or valuable security

Robbery (section 390)

In all robbery there is either theft or extortion.

Robbery becomes theft when in order to commit theft, while committing theft, in carrying away or attempting to carry away the stolen property, the offender for that end, voluntarily causes death or hurt or wrongful restraint to any person or fear thereof.

Robbery becomes extortion when the offender is in the presence of the person put in fear and commits extortion by putting the person in fear of instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint to that person or some other and thus induced the person to deliver the property or valuable security.

Explanation to section 390 states that the offender is said to be present if he is sufficiently near to put the other person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of wrongful restraint.

Both in theft and extortion, dishonesty is an essential ingredient. Thus if there is no dishonest intention in an act, there can be no theft or extortion and consequently there cannot be an offence of robbery. Hence dishonest intention is an essential of robbery. In fact, all essentials of theft or extortion, as the case may be, must be proved before an offence of robbery can be established.

Dacoity (section 391)

Robbery becomes dacoity when it is done or attempted to be done by five or more persons and these persons either commit the robbery themselves or are present and aid in commission or attempt of the robbery.  

Thus the essentials of dacoity are:

  1. Five or more persons must act in association
  2. The act must be robbery or attempt thereof
  3. The five persons must consist of those themselves commit or attempt to commit robbery or those who are present and aid the principal actors in the commission of the robbery or attempt thereof. Thus they must work conjointly to commit or attempt to commit robbery. A person present and aiding stands on the same footing for the purpose of this section.

Theft vs. Extortion

While theft is done by moving the property without consent, extortion is committed by overpowering the will of the owner. Thus, in theft there is “taking out of possession” while in extortion there is delivery of property. There is also no element of “fear” in case of theft but in extortion the person is put in fear so as to induce him to deliver the property or valuable security and hence fear becomes an essential in case of extortion.

Unlike theft, the property in respect to extortion is not limited to moveable property. It includes valuable property as well.

Theft vs. Robbery

The cases where theft becomes robbery, the offender -in order to commit theft, while committing theft, in carrying away or attempting to carry away the stolen property, causes death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear thereof.

Hence the difference between theft and robbery is that in the latter, in addition to theft, the causing of death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear thereof, is also present.

Extortion vs. Robbery

Only those cases of extortion become robbery where the “fear” is of instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint.

Fear is thus a requirement in both extortion as well as robbery but while in the former the offender puts the person in fear of any injury, in the latter case the fear is of instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint and what is necessary for this “instant” fear is that the offender is in presence of the person which is again not the scenario in extortion.

Robbery vs. Dacoity

While in a robbery there might be only one offender, in case of dacoity there must be a minimum of five persons. These five persons must consist of those who either themselves commit the robbery or who are present and aid the principal actors in the commission or attempt of the robbery.

Thus while theft and extortion are both independent offences, they might get converted into robbery on fulfillment of some conditions and subsequently robbery might convert into dacoity if it involves five or more offenders.

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