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Theft comes under chapter 17 �offences against the property� of the IPC. Theft is always committed against the property. The old word used for theft before 1968 is larcery. .Before reading about theft in detail, we all should know the jurisprudence behind considering property offences?

In the ancient time when humans were living like nomadic and their focus was just food. They just hunt and eat. They travel from one place to another in search of food. At that time humans did not have any sense of security. Due to evolution humans started having agriculture and cattle.

And these two, develop the sense of security among them. At that time they realize that property is an important factor of life. Property is very important for mental peace.

For example you went for a trip and after spending some time you always feel like to go back home, your own property which gives you happiness and security. This shows that property is the intrinsic part of human life. That is why law is interested in protecting your property. It also gives stability in the society and promotes equality in the society. This is the jurisprudence behind considering property offenses.

Theft - (Section 378)

There are two perspective about theft one which is general meaning as per the laymen and second which is given in IPC. General meaning has no importance in law but just for understanding one should know, so that he or she can make difference between the general meaning and meaning given in law.

General Meaning of Theft:
Felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive rightful owner or crime of stealing.

Meaning of Theft as per law:
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. It indicates that for the crime of theft possession is important not the ownership.

Section 378 to Section 382 of IPC, theft has been mentioned. These Sections give us idea about definition, punishment and aggravated form of theft. As per the definition of theft which is mentioned above, there are few words whose meaning should be clear before understanding styling theft in detail.

Those words are given blow:
  1. Dishonestly:
    Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person is said to do that thing �dishonestly�. This definition is given in Section 24 of IPC.
  2. Moveable Property:
    The word �moveable property� is intended to include corporal property of every description, except land and things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything which is attached to the earth. This is given in the Section 22 of the IPC.
  3. Consent:
    It means agreeing on the same thing in the same manner.

Essentials Of Theft

1. Intention to take dishonestly.
2. Moveable property.
3. Out of possession of any person.
4. Without consent.
5. Moves such property for taking.

Explanations Given In Section 378:

  1. Tree is an immoveable property but it becomes moveable after severance. It means after severance property becomes subject matter of theft.
    Ex- A cuts down a tree on Z�S land, with the intention of dishonestly taking the tree out of the possession of Z without his consent. Here, as soon as A has severed the tree in order to such taking, he has committed theft.
  2. Severance is nothing but moving only.
    Ex- A went to B�s farm in the midnight in order to cut and take the tree from his farm. When A cut the tree and about to take that tree, B saw him due to which he left the tree in the farm and left. A has committed theft.
  3. Removal of obstacle is nothing but moving only.
    Ex- A finds a gold ring in B�s house when A went to B�s house in a birthday party. He put that ring under the sofa so that it cannot be find out by anyone and he will take it later when B lose the interest in the ring. A has committed theft.
  4. If you move an animal then you are moving all the things with the animal.
    Ex- A meets a bullock carrying a box of treasure. He drives the bullock in a different direction, in order that he may dishonestly take the treasure. As soon as the bullock begins to move, A ha committed theft of the treasure.
  5. Two things can describe consent, which can be express or implied and second possession; it can be actual and constructive possession.
    Ex- A, being on friendly terms with Z, goes into Z�s library in Z�s absence, and takes away a book without Z�s express consent for the purpose of reading it, and with the intention of returning it. Here, it is probable that A may have conceived that he had Z�s implied consent to use Z�s book. If this was A�s impression, A has not committed theft.

Important Points Regarding Theft

  1. Merely on the first moving with dishonest intention theft will happen. But if first moving is without dishonest intention, theft will not happen.
    Ex1-A sees a ring belonging to Z lying on a table in Z's house. Not venturing to misappropriate the ring immediately for fear of search and detection, A hides the ring in a place where it is highly improbable that it will ever be found by Z, with the intention of taking the ring from the hiding place and selling it when the loss is forgotten. Here A, at the time of first moving the ring, commits theft.
    Ex2- A, in good faith, believing property belonging to Z to be A's own property, takes that property out of B's possession. Here, as A does not take dishonestly, he does not commit theft.
  2. Timing is not necessary for the crime of theft. Temporary deprivation is enough for the sake of theft. Only temporary wrongful gain or wrongful loss is required.
    Ex- A went to B�s house. On the dining table a saw a ring, he put it in his bag in order to take it. After few minutes B started asking about the same ring and looking for it. B made a statement that I put that ring on the dining table nobody came the went out expect you, I don�t really understand where my ring is? After that A put it on the couch and said here it is . A has committed theft.
  3. Owner is liable for the theft of his or her own property if he or she takes it from the possession of other person with dishonest intention. If he or she takes it without dishonest intention then he or she will not be liable for theft.
    Ex1- 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.
    Ex2-A delivers his watch to Z, a jeweler, to be regulated. Z carries it to his shop. A, not owing to the jeweler any debt for which the jeweler might lawfully detain the watch as a security, enters the shop openly, takes his watch by force out of Z's hand, and carries it away. Here A, though he may have committed criminal trespass and assault, has not committed theft, in as much as what he did was not done dishonestly.
  4. Taking is not necessary the moment you move things theft has been committed.
    Ex- A puts bait for dogs in his pocket, and thus induces Z's dog to follow it. Here, if A's intention be dishonestly to take the dog out of Z's possession without Z's consent. A has committed theft as soon as Z's dog has begun to follow A.
  5. Actual loss or gain is not required, only moving is sufficient.
    Ex- A is walking on the road; one person snatched her gold chain and start running. Somehow he lost his balance and chain come out of his pocket and without noticing that, he run away and A got his chain back. Here theft has been committed.

Death Body Related Theft

There is no theft in case of death body because death person lost the capacity of taking things in possession. And possession is a very important essential of theft. There are some important point regarding theft and death body which are given below:
  1. Two persons travelling in a car and car met with an accident. One died on the spot and other is alive. Another person went through the same road and he saw the car. He went near to the car and saw the person, he had taken all the jewelry from the body of death person and then inform the police regarding the same. Here person has committed theft because other person is alive. The moment one person died, possession of property regarding death person went to alive one.
  2. In the above example if there is only one person and he died, other facts of the example are same as point 1. Then in that condition, there would not be theft.
  3. A, a person died, his family buried him. After that B went to the same place took out the body and take his organ. This is not theft because body is not in the possession of anybody.

Can Wife, Clerk Or Servant Commit Theft?

As per Section 27 of IPC, when property is in the possession of a person�s wife, clerk, or servant, on account of that person, it is in that person�s possession within the meaning of IPC. Therefore a wife , servant or clerk cannot commit theft because property cannot come out of the possession of the person but there are exceptions of this Section 27, which will be understood by the examples given below:
  1. A asks charity from Z's wife. She gives A 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.
  2. A is the paramour of Z's wife. She gives a valuable property, which A knows to belong to her husband Z, and to be such property as she has no authority from Z to give. If A takes the property dishonestly, he commits theft.

    In the example 1 theft has not committed because dishonest intention is not there. On the other hand in the 2nd example theft is committed because dishonest intention is clearly seen.
  3. A, being Z's servant, and entrusted by Z with the care of Z's plate, dishonestly runs away with the plate, without Z's consent. A has committed theft.
  4.  Z, going on a journey, entrusts his plate to A, the keeper of the warehouse, till Z shall return. A carries the plate to a goldsmith and sells it. Here the plate was not in Z's possession. It could not therefore be taken out of Z's possession, and A has not committed theft, though he may have committed criminal breach of trust.
In the example 3 servants possession is equal to the possession of Z , that�s why theft is committed and in the last example Z already transfer the possession to keeper of warehouse therefore theft is not there because for theft property should come out of the possession of person.

Conditions When Theft Cannot Be Committed As Per IPC

  1. Incorporeal property means intangible property , which also has been discussed in Section 478 and Section 479 of IPC (Section 478 is omitted) .On such properties theft cannot be done, they can be copied but cannot move and moving or taking of property is important for theft.
  2. Electricity theft is not theft under IPC but it can be punished under Electricity Act, 1910.
  3. If you are alive and somebody made you unconscious and took your organ. This is not theft but an offence under Transplantation of Human Organ Act, 1994.
  4. In the condition of res nullius property means property which is in nobody�s possession theft cannot be happen.

Punishment For Theft

Under Section 379, �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.�

Aggravated Form Of Theft

Section 380:
Whoever commits theft in any building, tent or vessel, which building, tent or vessel is used as a human dwelling., or used for the custody of property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. State of Tamil Nadu has amendment in this Section of IPC.

Section 381:
Whoever, being a clerk or servant, or being employed in the capacity of a clerk or servant, commits theft in respect of any property in the possession of his master or employer, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 382:
Whoever commits theft, having made preparation for causing death, or hurt, or restraint, or fear of death, or of hurt, or of restraint, to any person, in order to the committing of such theft, or in order to the effecting of his escape after the committing. of such theft, or in order to the retaining of property taken by such theft, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 380 /381/382 is the aggravated form of theft.

Case Laws Regarding Theft

  1. Pyare Lal Bhargava Vs State Of Rajasthan On 22 October, 1962:

    In this case it was held that, � the temporary taking of an article with a view to return it after receiving some reward constitutes theft, indicating thereby that temporary deprivation of another person of his property causes wrongful loss to him is amount to theft.
  2. K. N. Mehra Vs The State Of Rajasthan On 11 February, 1957

    In this case it was held that, �mere knowledge that one is going to do wrongful lose is sufficient for the dishonest intention.
  3. Avtar Singh Vs State Of Punjab On 24 August, 1964

    In this case court held that, �electricity theft is not theft under IPC.
  4. Bisakhi Vs State 1971

    In this case court declared that, �for the offence of theft actual gain or actual loss is not necessary mere moving is sufficient.
  5. Uttam Vs Bhagwati 2013(3)Jlj 149 (MP)

    In this case court held that, �bonafide claim of right on a disputed land under civil litigation is not theft.

Tips To Learn Sections Of Theft
There are total five words in theft spelling.
5 words, 5 Sections and 5 explanations
Now to learn about illustrations which are 16 in total
5+5+5= 15+1=16
Here, three 5�s are 5 words+5 Sections+5 explanations

This particular Section of theft is very important to understand thoroughly because it helps in understanding many other offences like extortion, robbery dacoity e.t.c. All these offences are somewhat similar with very minute differences, which one has to understand to make the clear line of difference between all of them.

Theft in general sense and theft in IPC are like two different directions. For theft ownership is not even important. Theft only needs possession. Offence of theft happen on the first moving itself, if that moving is dishonestly. Dishonest intentions are must for the offence of theft. Only corporeal property comes under theft. Another factor for the offence of theft is consent. Consent can be implied or express. But if without consent moving any corporeal property then this will amount to theft.

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