Mischief

Mischief

Every crime which is made punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 constitutes of two essential elements, namely- Actus Reus and Mens Rea. While the former means guilty action (which is the physical element), the later means guilty mind (which is the mental element). In the case of ‘Mischief’, like other offences, there is guilty intention and an act in furtherance of the same.

“Mischief” has been defined under Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as IPC), which reads as follows-

425. Mischief.—Whoever with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property or in the situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously, commits “mischief”.

Explanation 1.- It is not essential to the offence of mischief that the offender should intend to cause loss or damage to the owner of the property injured or destroyed. It is sufficient if he intends to cause, or knows that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to any person by injuring any property, whether it belongs to that person or not.

Explanation 2.- Mischief may be committed by an act affecting property belonging to the person who commits the act, or to that person and others jointly.”

This definition is based on the legal maxim sic utretuoleadas which means ‘use your own property, so as not to injure your neighbor’s or other’s property’. A bare perusal of this provision clearly reveals that either intention or knowledge is required for the offence of mischief.[1] The terms ‘intent’ and ‘knowledge’ make it essential for there to exist the mental element while committing the offence of mischief. This mental element should be towards causing ‘destruction to the property’, ‘damage’ or ‘wrongful loss’ to the public or any person or individual. These constitute the actus reus of the offence of mischief.

Essential Ingredients of Mischief under IPC therefore are[2]:

  • intention to cause or knowledge that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person;
  • causing destruction of some property or any change in the property or in the situation thereof; and
  • the change so made destroying or diminishing the value or utility or affecting it Injuriously.

In order to hold a person guilty for the offence of mischief as defined under Section 425, IPC it is essential to show that such person had an intention to cause damage or destruction of property thereby diminishing its value, or, he had the knowledge that his acts would result into causing damage or destruction to the property. The damage so caused could be to the public or an individual/ person.

It has been noted by the Courts that mischief does not become punishable to acts which are negligent or accidental.[3] An act shall be made punishable of mischief only when the acts causing damages are done willfully and/ or with the knowledge of the consequences. Every act in order to fall under the ambit of definition of mischief is not criminal unless there is element of “mens rea”. Mischief definitely involves a mental act with a destructive animus[4]

The offence of mischief as defined under Section 425 IPC runs parallel to what is defined under the English laws as ‘malicious injury to the property’[5]. The latter has malice presumed from the very nature of the act committed and its illegality.

The punishment for the offence of Mischief has been prescribed under Section 426, IPC with imprisonment which may extend to a term of 3 Months or with fine or with both imprisonment and fine.

For example- If A’s cattle accidentally enters into B’s farms and eats all the grown crops, A would not be held guilty of the offence of mischief. This is because there was mere negligence on A’s part and he did not have the intention to leave his cattle in the farms of B thereby causing him damage. The definition of mischief itself makes mens rea a mandatory condition

However, if A with the intention of spoiling B’s crops, leaves its cattle in B’s farm, it would cause intentional damage to B’s property and this act would be punishable under 425, IPC. Proving intention or knowledge thus becomes essential to warrant conviction.

Defence by A that his intention was not to cause harm or damage to B but benefit himself is not a valid defence to escape the punishment for mischief. If he knew that he could only secure that benefit by causing wrongful loss or damage, it would not be a valid defence.[6]

Similarly, if a person damages public roads by violating the specific provision of law clearly amounts to mischief as provided under Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.[7]

In order to constitute mischief, it is essential that the value or utility of the property has been diminished, or it has been destroyed. It is also essential for this destruction or diminution in the value and utility of the property to be an immediate or proximate consequence of the alleged act of the accused.[8] The utility of the property shall be conceived from theperception of the owner of the property and not the accused.

With respect to the property being covered within the definition of ‘mischief’, it has a wide ambit covering both movable and immovable property.[9] In Indian Oil Corporation v. NEPC India Ltd. and Ors., the Court observed thatfor the purpose of Section 425, ownership or possession of the property is not relevant. Even if the property belongs to the accused himself, if the ingredients are made out, mischief is committed, as is evident from illustrations (d) and (e) to Section 425.[10] In this case, the complainant alleged that the respondent removed the engines thereby diminishing the value and utility of the aircrafts thus adversely affecting them. This caused loss and damage to the appellants who had the right to possess the entire aircraft. Upon investigation, it was held that all the ingredients of mischief had been satisfied and therefore, the allegations constituted the offence of ‘mischief’.

Aggravated Forms of Mischief

Punishment for the offence of mischief has been made note of under Section 426 of the Indian Penal as imprisonment until 3 months and/or fine. However, there are certain aggravated forms of mischief which have been explained under Sections 427 to Section 440, IPC.

For example– when the damage so caused by A to B’s property amounts to Rs.1,00,000/-.
Or when A causes damage to B’s cows, etc.

These aggravated forms of mischief are punishable differently as per the provisions of the following sections. The same have been explained as under:

SECTION[11]

OFFENCE

PUNISHMENT

S. 427

Causing damage to the amount of fifty  rupees

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Like Section 425, IPC, Intention plays an essential role under Section 427 as well. The Accused has to have an intention to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person/ individual.

The Section would not be attracted if the accused has not committed an act ‘with the intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or the person’.[12]

S. 428

Killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees or more.

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

The intention of the legislature here is to prevent cruelty to the animals as a result of which cruelty is caused to the owner,

The term ‘animal’ here means ‘any living creature other than a human being’[13]. ‘Maiming’ does not mean causing wounds or temporary injuries.[14] It has to be an injury permanently affecting the use of a limb or other member of the body.

In this case also, proving intention and/ or knowledge on the part of the accused is an essential or the accused would not be held guilty.

S. 429

Killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering the animal useless (including an elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox) of any value or animal of the value of rupees fifty rupees.

Imprisonment or either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

 

Before Section 429 is invoked, it is necessary to prove that Section 425, dealing with mischief, is application to the case at hand. Once the applicability of Section 425 is ruled out, Section 429 becomes inapplicable.[15]

Intention is therefore an essential requirement on the part of the Accused in order to convict him under Section 429.

Owing to the comparatively greater value of the animals mentioned in the section, the punishment has also been enhances to simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term of 5 years or fine or both.

S. 430

Injuring works of irrigation or wrongfully diverting water, including activities such as-

diminution of the supply of water for agricultural purposes, or for food or drink for human beings or for animals which are property, or for cleanliness or for carrying on any manufacture,

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

The intention of the legislature here is to prevent diminution in the supply of water fir agriculture or other drinking purposes for humans as well as for animals.

S. 431

Injuring public road, bridge, navigable river or river channel, natural or artificial, impassable or less safe for travelling or conveying property

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

A public road is a road used by the public generally. [16]Therefore, ‘public’ under this section indicates the use and not the ownership.

Proving intention is essential here, as in other forms of aggravated mischief.

S. 432

Causing inundation or obstruction to public drainage attended with damage.

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

S. 433

Destroying, moving or rendering less useful a light-house or sea-mark or other such useful navigators

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

S. 434

Destroying or moving etc. a landmark fixed by public authority

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Offences of Arson

S. 435

Using fire or explosive substances with the intention to cause damage to amount of one hundred or (in case of agricultural produce) ten rupees

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 435 and Section 436 are often referred to as the offences of arson. These sections cover instances where damage has been caused to the property using explosive substances or fire amongst other things.

S. 436

Using fire or explosive substances with the intention to destroy a building which is ordinarily a place of worship or a dwelling house or  a place for a custody of property etc.

Imprisonment for life or of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 436 refers to destruction to three types of places-

a.       Human dwelling;

b.      Place of worship;

c.       Place to keep property

It has been held by several Courts that it is not essential for this property to be a completely constructed property. These could be structures of straw and not bricks and cement; or a grass or matt hut meant for keeping cattle etc.[17]

To establish a case of arson under Section 436, IPC, it is important to for that there be clear evidence with regard to the identities of the actual persons, who actively set fire to the dwelling place or building.[18] Therefore, a severe punishment cannot be imposed until it is established that person A set the dwelling place on fire or instigated someone to do it for him.

For example- if there is a direct eye witness to the account of the setting on fire by the Accused, then the conviction of the eye witness shall be confirmed.[19]

S. 437

Intention to destroy or make unsafe a decked vessel or one of twenty tons or upwards burden.

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

S. 438

Punishment for mischief described in Section 437 committed by fire explosive substances.

Imprisonment for life or of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

S. 439

Punishment for intentionally running vessel aground or ashore with intent to commit theft, etc.

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

S. 440

Mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt

Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Illustrations

1. A had knowledge that P had grown some agricultural products on the land. He intended to spoil the produce thereby causing harm and financial loss to P. He therefore left some horses on the land to run and graze on the produce. This would amount to mischief.

2. X with the intention of causing loss to Y poisoned all this cattle by mixing poison in the food they would eat. This would amount to mischief.

3. J knowing point A to be a landmark implanted by the government shifted it to another location with the intention of misguiding the passengers. This amounts to an aggravated form of mischief.

4. T being an atheist and having a problem with the ideology of existence of God decided to burn all the places of worship in town. This included places which were still under construction or those which had a kacha-pucca This amounts to an aggravated amount of mischief.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does Mischief mean?

The term has been defined under Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code. It means causing or having knowledge of doing an act which is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to any person or property, cause destruction or diminish its value or utility.

2. Is intention a necessary element in order to constitute ‘mischief’?

Like other offences which require both Actus Reus and Mens Rea, ‘mischief’ requires the same. Intention and knowledge in fact form one of the essential elements in order to constitute ‘mischief’. The same reflects through the definition of the term under Section 435, IPC.

3. What is the punishment for ‘Mischief’?

The punishment for the offence of Mischief has been prescribed under Section 426, IPC with imprisonment which may extend to a term of 3 Months or with fine or with both imprisonment and fine. However, this is not applicable to all cases if mischief. For the aggravated forms, the punishment has been prescribed in the further sections.

4. What are the aggravated forms of mischief?

These are mischiefs which are more specific in nature. For example- Causing damage to the amount of fifty  rupees, Killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees or more etc. These have been defined from Sections 427 to 440 of the Indian Penal Code. Punishment in these cases varies from 2 years to Life Imprisonment of either term, and /or fine.

Edited by Parul Soni
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1]Satish Chand Singhal vs. State of Rajasthan.

[2]Indian Oil Corporation vs. NEPC India Ltd. and Ors AIR2006SC2780.

[3]Nagendranath Roy v. Dr Bijoy Kumar Das (1992) CrLJ 1871 (Ori) ; Ved Prakash v. Chaman Lal (1995) CrLJ 3890 (All).

[4]Shantanu Maharaj Khosla and Ors. vs. State of Himachal Pradesh (Cr. M.M.O. Nos. 4098, 4099 and 4105 of 2013) MANU/HP/1543/2014.

[5] Section 48, Criminal Damage Act 1971 (repealed the Malicious Damage Act 1861 which was in force when the Indian Penal Code, 1860 came into force.

[6] Public Prosecutor v. Semalai Pannadi AIR 1960 Mad 240.

[7]Vikash Kumar Singh son of Sri Ram Bharosa Singh vs. The State of Bihar through the Principal Commissioner cum-Secretary, Department of Transport, Government of Bihar and Ors. AIR 2011 Pat 72.

[8]Kameshwar v. Bhola Nath (1969) Pat LJR 430.

[9] Ram Birich Mahato v. Bishwanath Misser (1961) 2 CrLJ 265 (Pat)

[10]Indian Oil Corporation vs. NEPC India Ltd. and Ors. AIR2006SC2780.

[11] Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[12] Krishna Gopal Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 2000 SC 3616.

[13] Section 47, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[14]Gopala Krishna v. Krishna Bhatia  AIR 1960 Ker 74.

[15]Hari Mandle v. Jafar (1895) ILR 22 Cal 457.

[16]Azamkhan v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1973) CrLJ 508(AP).

[17]Babu Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1952 All 146; Mangi v. State of Rajasthan (1982) CrLR (Raj) 403.

[18]KI Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s CRIMINAL LAW, 837 (12th edition, 2014), LexisNexis.

[19] Shri Cruz Pacheco v. State (1998) CrLJ 4628 (Bom).

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I am Kanika Kalra, a Philosophy major, pursuing the 3 Year law course from Law Centre-II, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, at present. Law for me is a noble profession just like medicine. I am passionate about law and my aim in life is only to use my knowledge in the right way for the right people. I am enthusiast mooter and debator. I love researching. I teach kids in my NGO and conduct music therapy sessions for the Cancer patients. Apart from law, the other constant things in my life have been my sitar, art and swimming.