Robbery and its punishments


Robbery is defined by the Black’s Law Dictionary as the felonious act of taking the personal property in the possession of another from his person or immediate presence against his will accomplished using force and fear, with an intention of permanently depriving the true owner of the thing in question.[1] Robbery in common language means to deprive a person of his or her property.

In all robbery, there is either theft or extortion. The essence of the offence of robbery is that the offender for committing theft or for carrying away or attempting to carry away the looted property, voluntarily causes or attempts to cause death or hurt or wrongful restraint.

Section 390– Robbery

In all robbery, there is either theft or extortion.


The explanation attached to the section says that the offender is said to be present within the meaning of this section if he is sufficiently near to put the other person in fear of instant death, or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint.[2]

Even though a robbery would always be either theft or extortion as shown by the definition, in practice it may sometimes be quite difficult to identify as to which part is robbery by theft and which one robbery by extortion. For instance, A enters into the house of В and pointing a revolver at him asks him to surrender all the valuables. While В starts surrendering the valuables, A himself starts picking up some of the other valuables.


The essential ingredients of Robbery are:

  • There must have been commission of theft as defined in Section 378;
  • The act of theft must have been committed by the offender causing or attempting to cause fear of death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear of instant death or instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint; and[3]
  • There must have been commission of extortion as defined in Section 383 and while doing so the offender must have been in presence of the person and subsequently has put the person in fear of instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint or instant death and by causing so has induces the person to deliver some property in possession of the person so put in fear.

When Theft is Robbery[4]

Theft is robbery when in order to commit theft or while committing theft, or while carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by theft, the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death, subject him/her to wrongful restraint or cause hurt or induce fear of instant death, instant wrongful restraint or causing instant hurt.

Thus, theft becomes robbery when the following conditions are satisfied;

  • When the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause:
    • Death, wrongful restraint or hurt or
    • Fear of instant death, instant wrongful restraint or instant hurt.
  • And the above act(s) is done
    • While committing the theft
    •  To commit the theft
    • While carrying away the property obtained by theft or
    • While attempting to carry away property obtained by theft.

For example: A holds Z down and fraudulently takes Z’s money and jewels from Z’s clothes without Z’s consent. Here A has committed theft, and by committing of that theft, has voluntarily caused wrongful restraint to Z. A has therefore committed rob­bery.[5]

When Extortion is Robbery[6]

Extortion becomes robbery when the offender at the time of committing the offence of extortion is in the presence of the person put in fear and commits extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, instant wrongful restraint or instant hurt to that person or some other person and by doing so induces the person, so put in fear to then and there deliver the thing that has been extorted.

 Thus, extortion becomes robbery when the following conditions are satisfied;

1. When a person commits extortion by putting another in the fear of instant death, wrongful restraint or hurt

2. Then the offender induces the person under such fear to deliver the property at that very instant; then and there.

3. The offender is in the near presence of such a person put in fear at the time of extortion.

Illustration: A meets Z and Z’s child on the high road. A takes the child and threatens to fling it down a precipice unless Z delivers his purse. Z, in consequence, delivers his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from Z, by causing Z to be in fear of instant hurt to the child who is present. A has therefore robbed Z.[7]

However, if A obtains property from Z by saying, “Your child is in the hands of my gang, and will be put to death unless you send us ten thousand rupees.” This is extortion, and punishable as such; but it would not be robbery unless Z is put in fear of the instant death of his child.

Section 392– Punishment for robbery[8]

The punishment for robbery is given under Section 392 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. By this section, any person who commits robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may be extended up to ten years and shall also be liable to pay a fine.

If the robbery is committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, then the period of imprisonment may be extended up to 14 years.

Classification of offence

The nature of offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

In Ezhil vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the facts of the case were that the accused were charged for offences against Section 364. 392 and 302 read with Sections 34 and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court held that keeping in view the proximity of time within which act of murder was supposed to be committed and body found and the articles recovered from possession of accused presumption can be drawn not only of the fact that they were in the possession of the stolen articles after committing robbery but also committed the murder of the deceased. Therefore, conviction of the accused persons under Section 302 and 392 read with Section 34 was proper.

Further, in case of Sikander Kumar vs. State[9], the prosecution was that the two appellants pointed a knife at the complainant and took Rs. 50/- and drove away the auto of the complainant. Next day the accused were arrested in Nakabandi in presence of complainant. One independent witness turned hostile.The trial Court imposed punishment against Sikander Kumar and other accused. On appeal, the Delhi High Court set aside the conviction, opining that entire prosecution story was inherently improbable and unbelievable. It would be unsafe to place total reliance on testimony of complainant to base conviction as one independent witness turned hostile.

Section 393– Attempt to commit robbery[10]

According to this section, anyone who attempts to commit robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for up to seven years and also be liable for a fine.

Classification of offence

The nature of offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

In Om Prakash v. State [11]

In this case, the accused committed a high-way robbery. They looted the passengers of the bus. The trial Court imposed punishment for life. On appeal High Court upheld it.

Section 394– Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery

If any person, in committing or in attempting to commit robbery, volun­tarily causes hurt, such person, and any other person jointly concerned in committing or attempting to commit such robbery, 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 nature of offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

In J. Narayan Prasad v. State of M.P.[12]

Brief Facts: The accused did robbery and also killed the wife of the complainant. The complainant identified the accused in the Identification Parade. The accused showed the stolen property.Recovery effected at the instance of accused not claimed by them, except one N who claimed that those were purchased by him under receipt. One of the PWs hostiled. The accused were convicted by the trial Court and it was confirmed by the High Court.

Judgment: The Supreme Court confirmed the trial Court judgment.

Judicial Pronouncements

The following cases will help us in ascertaining the judicial standpoint of Robbery in Indian Judicial System:

State of Maharashtra vs. Joseph Mingel[13]

In this case, it was held that in order to establish Robbery by Theft it was essential to prove all the 5 necessary ingredients laid down under Section 378 which is said to constitute theft. If anyone of the five ingredients of Section 378 is not fulfilled then, robbery under Section 390 cannot be said to have been committed

Abdul Rashid vs. Nausar Ali[14]

In this case, some armed person had entered the field of the plaintiff and was cutting the crops of the plaintiff. However, it was held that this did not amount to Robbery rather it amounted to theft, as the element of threat was missing.

Ram Baran v. Emperor [15]

A large number of people under the influence of religious sentiments had attacked a group of Muslim people who were driving cattle along the public road. After this, the group had forcefully deprived the Muslim people of their cattle. This was held to be a case of dacoity and not robbery amounting to murder.


Robbery as defined under Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 will always either comprise of theft or extortion. Robbery is considered as the aggravated form of extortion or theft. Hence, transitively in order to constitute theft amounting to robbery or extortion amounting to robbery, it is essential to fulfil the necessary ingredients of theft as defined under Section 378 and extortion as defined under Section 383. However, in order to turn into robbery from extortion or robbery from theft, there must be an element of instant threat or instant injury or instant death. Hence, it is essential to understand the difference between the three offences as they are often thought to be similar by any layman whereas in the legal field they are not.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Should robbery with a fake gun be less of a crime than robbery with a real gun?

Absolutely yes (if it mean “punishable less severely”, the classification of armed robbery in most places hinges on the threat of using a gun, so it’s obviously going to stay).

The robbed were factually placed in less danger. The robbers accepted greater personal risk to significantly reduce the odds of someone ending up dead in a robbery gone wrong. The reasonable person standard is not flawless, by the way. Its an inappropriate application is what leads to people dying who did not need to because a cop thought he saw something. It has its place in determining whether the reaction was reasonable in the heat of the moment, but in determining sentencing it needs to take second place to actual facts of the matter.

For instance observing action movie shoot in the open. Should the actors be sentenced for robbery if to the observer – who does not and cannot know he is watching a staged act – it looks like robbery and a reasonable person would conclude so? Of course not. Facts of the case actually matter after the moment, even if in the moment the observer would be warranted to act to stop it.

2. What are causes of armed robbery? How can they be prevented?

Armed robbers cause armed robbery. Given a robber’s skills, temperament, place in society, and desperation, he may decide that committing armed robbery is the best way for him to get money. Armed robbers are also encouraged by the positive stimulus when armed robbery victims submit to robbers’ demands.

As for preventing armed robbery, if it mean a society with zero armed robberies, that will be virtually impossible. (To have zero robberies would be like trying to produce corn flakes with zero rat feces or roach parts. The best we can do is to reject lots whose samples have more than a very small number of such impurities.)

There are some ways that can reduce the incidence of armed robbery. One way is by having everywhere a constant and intrusive police presence. This is economically infeasible.

Another approach would be to massively increase the length of imprisonment for convicted armed robbers. This is expensive, and risks absolutely ruining the lives of a certain number of innocent people convicted through mistaken identity. (This has also happened with rape convictions; sometimes a person unjustly convicted actually looks quite a lot like the real rapist. Mistaken identity is always a risk when depending upon capturing people long after the fact.)

Another approach would ensure that people wanting to abuse harmful drugs are able to get as much as they desire very, very cheaply. This conflicts with our goal of using the government to promote healthful living (e.g. by discouraging tobacco use), but at least it’s a feasible approach with more limited danger to innocents.

For some, the concern about armed robbery is the danger of death to the victim e.g. if when the victim panics, tries to flee without paying, and is killed for it. In a few cases the robber murders even a compliant victim on impulse or due to a reflex reaction to an unexpected loud noise.

To reduce this problem, some people have advocated harsh penalties against carrying effective self-defense weapons, especially those that can do harm; the theory is that robbers may be less tempted to use dangerous weapons such as firearms if they don’t feel they need them. All the robber would need is a video camera to film the victim as he makes his demands. If the victim refuses, the robber could turn the video over to the police who would then prosecute the intended victim. The police would give the robber immunity for the attempted crime of robbery in exchange for his testimony against the intended victim and his greater crime.If the robber is armed with nothing more than a video camera, being robbed can become quite safe (though perhaps more frequent).

The opposite approach is based on the belief that choosing to submit to robbery is immoral. One can argue that paying a person for doing a robbery is unethical in the same sense as paying a person to commit murder. Turning over property to the robber encourages him to do more robberies, and encourages others to imitate him.

In Gandhi’s autobiography he recalled advice he gave to his sons in the context of India’s desire for independence from Britain. He described three ways of reacting to aggressive and unjust violence. One was cowardly submission, which he said was the most despicable reaction. Armed counter-violence was not as contemptible, he wrote, but he believed that passive resistance was morally superior to both.

An approach that theoretically would work if it could be implemented would be for the entire population to adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance approach — just say no, run away, and if the robber murders you then he murders you. Then there would be no benefit to robbery. This full-Gandhi approach is not going to happen because people don’t want to be murdered — and it would be very bad for loved ones who rely on them.

The next best approach according to Gandhi’s letter to his sons, would be to fight back — to respect the right of potential victims to arm themselves, and if threatened by death or grave bodily harm, to use deadly force in self-defense. In American states that changed their law to allow this approach (by making available permits to carry concealed handguns), the rate of armed robbery was been significantly reduced at very little public expense. There are occasional deaths of robbers, and even less frequent deaths of unsuccessful defenders, but in total these are probably fewer than the occasional deaths of victims when armed robbery is frequent.

This approach does, however, come with some disadvantages in that letting many private citizens to own handguns makes it easier for criminals to obtain firearms illegally; and criminals who obtain firearms tend to use them against one another in their personal and illegal-business conflicts. People who live in neighborhoods that are rife with violent criminals risk being caught in the crossfire, which puts them in a dilemma — they don’t want the police to kill or imprison these criminals because the criminals are often their own sons, brothers, and nephews.Others are less sympathetic — both to the criminals and to those who sympathize with them. [16]

3. What percentage of bank robberies go unsolved?

Typically an old rule of thumb was about 3 robberies before they were caught – similarly twenty burglaries before apprehension. Bank robbery in US is a federal crime so FBI gets involved and they do better, a guess about 10% because cameras, guards, and dye bombs. Need to answer by comparison because it depends on the investigative resources in the locality (country) where the bank is located. Current and last Chief in their infinite wisdom broke up homicide squad so detectives could distribute the workload so detectives with decades of experience in profiling, insect larvae, blood splatter analysis, interview expertise, and forensics are working home burglaries and the ones who used to specialize in burglaries get to investigate deaths of undetermined cause because they can’t tell a poisoning from a heart attack. Also used to have specialist detectives in robberies with high clearance rate. Reason bank robberies have as high a clearance rate as they do is the multi-agency coverage. Search FBI Uniform Crime “clearance” rates but have seen these stats highly padded. Depends on where you are and lots of other factors.

4. What are the main causes of robbery?

According to the book Freakonomics crime rates in the USA dropped 20 years after abortion was funded because there were less unwanted children (growing up in single parent homes) reaching the age where they would have been most likely to offend. Therefore it would seem to follow that lower socio-economic status and possibly neglect could be some of the main causes of robbery.

For the 3 or so percent of the population who have little conscience or ethical principle a cause or reason could simply be opportunity vs cost, as in, they would take it if they knew they would not get caught. It may also be interesting to consider that cameras (The Panopticon) should limit crime. They don’t though, studies show that cameras do not stop people from committing the same number of crimes, on average, as where there are no cameras.

Other reasons may be poor impulse control, sensation seeking, hoping to get caught to get help and as the other answers that mention money and addiction imply, simply, need.

If you find yourself wanting to rob, take a big breath and ask your doctor or someone you trust to help you get help, whether that means food, shelter, a hug or just someone to talk to.

Edited by Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[1] BLACK LAW DICTIONARY (7th ed. 1999).

[2] What is Robbery? What is Dacoity? What is the punishment for robbery? Section 390, 391 and 392 of Indian Penal Code 1860,

[3] Mayank Skekhar, Robbery and Dacoity – Meaning and important provisions,

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

[5] Illustration (a) to Section 390, Indian Penal Code, 1860

[6] supra note 3

[7] Illustration (c) to Section 390, Indian Penal Code, 1860

[8] K.D. Gaur, Textbook on Indian Penal Code, Fifth Edition 2014

[9] 1998 (3) Crimes 69 Delhi HC

[10] ibid

[11] 1978 CrLJ 797 All.

[12] AIR 2006 SC 204

[13] 1997(1) BOM CRLJ 362.

[14] 1979 CRLJ 1158 (CAL).

[15] 1983 15 ALL 299

[16] Frank Silbermann, What are causes of armed robbery? How can they be prevented?, , (last visited on May,31, 2016)

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.