Theft is defined under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 378 states that any person with a dishonest intention to take any movable property out of the possession of a person without the person’s consent to whom it belongs move that property is said to commit theft.
Ingredients of theft:
- There must be a dishonest intention to take property
It is the main ingredient of the theft. Any property which is taken will not amount to theft until the intention was dishonest. The intention of the person who is taking the property was to cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another person.
- Property must be out of possession; i.e. property should be moveable;
To commit theft property should be movable. Property which is capable of being carried around is said to be a movable property. Any property or a thing which is permanently attached to the earth is immovable property and will not be a subject of theft. It may become a subject of theft, when it is severed from the earth. When any such property is moved without the consent of the owner it is considered as theft.
Case Law: Pyarelal Bhargava v. the State of Rajasthan
In this case, an office file from the chief engineer office was removed temporarily and was given to the private party for a day, it amounts to theft. The Hon’ble court held that even if property dispossession is temporary, a person taking the property intended to restore it is said to commit theft.
- The property must be taken out of possession of another person;
Any property which is stolen should be in possession of another person. Until the property is removed no offence has been committed. Mere intention of stealing something is not an offence.
Case Law: Rakesh v. State of NCT of Delhi
The Hon’ble court held that mere intention of the offender to take property dishonestly out of the possession of a person without his consent is no offence. Until the property is removed, no offence has been committed. The actual removal of property from another person’s possession is necessary, as mentioned in Section 378 of IPC.
- Property should be taken without the consent of the person who was in possession;
If a property of a person in possession is taken without his prior consent (the consent may be express or implied) will amount to theft. The offence will take place when the offender takes the property dishonestly and without the consent of that person.
Case Law: K.N. Mehra v. the State of Rajasthan
The Supreme Court held that absence of a person’s consent to whom the property belongs at the time of moving it and the presence of dishonest intention at the time of taking that property are the essentials to commit theft.
- Property should be moved, in order to such taking.
Moving a property with a dishonest intention is an initial stage of committing a theft. So, the property should be moved, to commit an offence. Mere dishonest intention will not amount to theft.
Illustration: A goes to B’s house, and sees a painting lying on the table. A hides that painting at B’s place and thinks whenever he will visit next time he will take the painting. Here, A commits no theft as the property has not been moved.
Punishment for theft is given under Section 380 of IPC.
Whoever commits theft shall be punished with 3 years of imprisonment or fine or with both.
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