Any offense that is related to private property of any individual or group of
individuals is known as property crime. In common parlance, acts such as theft,
burglary, shoplifting, vandalism are attributed as property crimes. The Indian
judiciary has applicable provisions for acts that encroach upon the right of
ownership of private properties of individuals and in the process affect the
life and safety of individuals. Crimes related to property always tend to enrich
the offenders. These crimes are more penal than civil in nature. Often these
crimes usually involve threats of violence, force, extortion, robbery, etc.
Usually property crimes have been broadly classified into two types, namely
destroyed property and lost property. Crimes falling under destroyed property
may be an act of vandalism or mischief, whereas, crimes under lost property can
easily be embezzlement or robbery. Under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the
provisions that are applicable for property crimes in India are laid down from
Sections 378 to 460.
Societal Impact Of Property Crimes In India:
India is a developing country and therefore, its flourishing economy and
population puts a major impact on the crime rate in India. Along with heinous
crimes, petty crimes are also committed and many crimes go unreported for
various reasons. India is still not economically stable and does not witness
adequate availability of resources to the growing population and hence, poverty
becomes one such determining factor that leads to the commission of property
crimes. The lack of education for most people leaves them with not many choices
but to plunder and loot people by deceiving them or by using crude violence.
Also, illiteracy in people also induces the miscreants to easily dupe the
illiterate property owners and misappropriate property in their names. Poverty
leads them to live in ignorance of the awareness of the law of the land.
In many states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh the property
crime rate is high and is characterized by violence. The nexus between police,
criminals and politicians in many such places results in lawlessness and also
propagates lack of deterrent consequences for the criminals. Therefore, the
general public to a major extent lose faith in the system and avoid even
reporting of the incidents out of fear for further escalation and problems
resulting from it.
The public is of the opinion that politicians are corrupted and they use petty
offenders, who commit robbery and small scale vandalism on a daily basis, for
achieving their own means and in the process such offenders contribute to
committing more severe and violent crimes as a means to achieve instill fear and
allow property crimes to occur.
The social condition of a state regulates the occurrence of offenses.
Unemployment, religion, politics, poverty among others, unequal rights, unfair
justice system have always been crucial in determining the crime rate.
Therefore, the whole system needs to be reformed from the roots which is a very
challenging process and will demand a considerable amount of time,
Analysis of legal provisions for contemporary property crimes in India:
In order to understand the nature and pattern of property crimes in India,
offenses related to property crimes need to be analyzed in detail for better
understanding of the subject in contemporary times.
Theft (Section 378-382): An act by which a person illegally causes a movable property to be taken
away from the lawful possession of another person without his/her consent,
is called theft.
In order to qualify an act as theft, the property must be movable or
anything that is not attached to earth or has lost the quality of being
attached to earth by a moving which affects the severance of the act of
Illustration: if A with dishonest intention cuts the trees planted on
B�s territory and takes them away without the consent of B, A is said to
have committed theft the moment A has cut off the trees with the dishonest
intention of taking them away.
Under section 379, theft has been penalized with either imprisonment for a
period which may extend to 3 years or with fine or with both.
Section 380 lays down that when theft is committed in any building, tent or
any property which is treated as a human dwelling, such act of theft is
penalized with imprisonment which may extend to 7 years and fine.
The State of Tamil Nadu made amendments in respect of Section 380 and laid
down that theft of any idol or icon of worship or religious importance from
any building of worship is penalized with imprisonment not less than 2 years
but extending upto 3 years and also liable with penalty of not less than
2000 rupees. An imprisonment of less than two years may be subject to the
discretion of the Court on consideration of special and adequate reasons.
Section 381 lays down that when theft is committed by a person of a
subordinate rank like a clerk or a servant, with regards to any property in
the possession of the employer or the master, as the case may be, such clerk
or servant is liable for imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven
years and fine.
Section 382 shall be explained with an example: A decides to commit theft on
B�s property and he keeps a loaded gun with him with the purpose of hurting
B if B tries to resist A while committing the theft. A will be punished with
rigorous imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and fine because A had
the intention to kill or cause hurt, or cause fear of death or hurt as the
case may be, or to cause wrongful restraint of B, for the act of commission
Robbery and Dacoity (section 390- 402): The illegal act of taking away the property from the lawful possession of
another person without his consent by inflicting force and causing
apprehension to life and property of that person or to any other person is
Robbery qualifies as an act of theft under Section 382. Robbery qualifies as
an act of extortion when the act or omission causes instant fear of death,
hurt or wrongful restraint which induces the person to give up his/her
property forcefully against his/her will to another person.
Robbery becomes dacoity when five or more members jointly commit or attempt
to commit robbery or aid in the commitment of robbery. Hence, it is clear
that preparation in the commitment of robbery is in itself an offense
punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and fine.
Dacoity is also coupled with other offenses namely:
- Dacoity with murder (S. 396),
- Dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt (S.397),
- Attempt to dacoity when armed with deadly weapon (S.398),
- Preparation of dacoity (S. 399),
- Member of gang of dacoits (S.400), and
- Assembling for the purpose of committing dacoity (S.402).
Criminal Misappropriation of Property (Section 403):When a movable property is misappropriated or converted for own use by a person
deceitfully, the act of criminal misappropriation of property is said to have
been committed. It would still be held under criminal misappropriation of
property if such misappropriation is done for a limited period or any period of
If a person finds any property which is not possessed by any other person, or
takes the property for protecting it or restoring it to the rightful owner, such
act will not be held under criminal misappropriation unless:
- he converts it for his own use, or
- when he knows or has the access of knowing the owner, or before he has used
rational efforts to find the owner and provided notice to the owner, if he has
used the property for himself,
- without waiting for a considerable period of time for the owner to claim it, if
he has used the property for himself.
A sees B dropping his gold watch by mistake; A picks up the gold
watch to restore it to B, but later on converts it for his own use. A is said to
have committed an offense under this section.
Dishonest Misappropriation of property possessed by deceased person at the time
of death (Section 404):This section could be explained with the help of an illustration. If A dies in
possession of a car, household furniture and cash, his house attendant, B, just
after A�s death and before anyone comes in possession of such movable
properties, dishonestly and deceitfully misappropriates all such properties in
is name, B is said to have committed offense under this section.
If the offender
is a clerk or a servant, he will be punished with imprisonment which may extend
to 7 years. If the offender is not a clerk or a servant and is any other person,
such person shall be imprisoned which may extend to 3 years and fine.
Criminal breach of trust (Section 405):
- If a person is entrusted with a property or has supremacy over any property,
- and the same person breaches the trust of the other person whose interest is
involved in such property,
- and such breach is caused by misappropriation or conversion for own use by the
- which contravenes the law governing the manner in which such trust is to be
disposed off, or legal obligations pertaining to any contract made in this
regard for the discharge of such legal contract, as the case may be,
- such a person is said to have committed offense under this section.
If a public officer is directed by the Government to pay a certain
amount to a treasury, but the officer withholds the money instead of following
the directions of the Government, and then he misappropriated the money, he has
committed criminal breach of trust.
Stolen Property (Section 410):Again, stolen property is classified under offenses of theft, extortion,
robbery, criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust. Provided that,
under this section such misappropriation or breach of trust or transfer
immaterially consider the place of occurrence of such event, hence, such event
taking place within or outside India becomes immaterial. In the later event, if
the property which is stolen comes in possession of the real owner, the property
ceases to be a stolen property.
Cheating (Section 415):Under this section, the essential elements are:
- A person should be cheated upon
- Presence of dishonest or fraudulent incitement by another person
- The person who is cheated upon should be encouraged to give any movable property
to any other person, or give consent that any other person shall keep any
- The person who is cheated upon must be deceived with an intention to commit or
omit doing of anything which he would not have done if he was not deceived to do
In a contract, A and B are parties. A dishonestly induces B to
believe that A has performed his part of obligation in the contract. B, deceived
upon believing so, pays A the consideration payable for discharge of such
obligation. A has committed an offense under this section.
Mischief (Section 425): Under this section, elements that constitute mischief are as follows:
- A person should have an intention to cause or should know that he is likely to
cause damage to any person or the public in general, or wrongful loss.
- The person should know that in order to cause wrongful loss to any person or
public im general he should cause demolition of any property or tamper with the
form of property as is to deform it from its original state
- As a result of such demolition or deformation of the property, the property�s
value must be diminished and its utility must be severely affected as is to
If A burns the documents of an immovable property of B
intentionally to cause wrongful loss to B, A is said to have committed the
offense of mischief.
Criminal Trespass (Section 441):An act done by a person to enter another person�s property with the intention to
commit an offense, humiliate, annoy or intimidate such other person, such person
is said to have committed the offense of criminal trespass. The act of entry
must be unlawful and without consent of the property owner and the intention
must be malafide.
House Trespass (Section 442), Lurking House Trespass(Section 443) and Lurking
House Trespass by Night (Section 444):
- House trespass is committed when anybody unlawfully enters any building, tent or
vessel used for human dwelling, or any building used as a place of worship, or
any place used as a safe custody for property.
- Lurking house trespass is committed when someone commits house trespass by
taking precautions as to guarding himself/herself or hiding from anyone who is
supposed to eject him or exclude him from the property of either human dwelling,
place of worship or place of custody of property.
- Lurking house trespass by night is committed after sunset and before sunrise.
House Breaking (Section 445) and House Breaking by Night (Section 446): The act of committing house trespass for the purpose of committing an
offense in any of the following ways:
- Enters or quits through a passage made by himself or any abettor of such house
- Enters or quits by breaking a lock;
- Enters or quits by committing assault or threats anybody to commit assault on
such person; and
- Enters or quits through any passage known to him to be fastened to obstruct
entry and exit, but he unfastens such passage in order to commit house trespass,
is called house breaking.
If A enters B�s house by breaking the glass of B�s window, A is
said to have committed house breaking.
Under Section 446, the commission of house breaking after sunset and before
sunrise has been defined as the offense of house breaking by night.
The socio- economic irregularity forms a major component in determining the
crime rate in India. Not to forget that property crimes and other violent crimes
have gradually risen in India because political, biological and social factors
have played a part in the scene for decades. It is the Government�s duty to
scrutinize each state individually and take up manifold measures to educate the
people in living a modest living as a decent, responsible and law abiding
citizen, and distribute the resources adequately among all groups of people to
avoid crimes arising out of factors that regulate the operation of a society.