Criminal Trespass.

Introduction

An unlawful entry by a person into a private property of an individual is known as trespass. Any person who enters the property of another without the owner’s permission is said to have committed the offence of criminal trespass. In all the countries, trespass against the property has been recognized as a civil wrong. However, a lot of countries, including India have made it a criminal offence too. In India, Criminal trespass is ordinarily a civil wrong and usually compensation on damages is granted. However, trespass with a criminal intention is treated as a criminal offence and  is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. The reason for making this a criminal offence is to keep owners free from any interruptions in their property.

Requirement of criminal intent

Mostly the specific requirement of trespass, whether civil or criminal is ‘intent’. Just the unlawful presence of an individual on someone’s property is not enough. It has to be proved that the person or invader knew that he wasn’t allowed to be on the property and that he still chose to be on the land, with ill intent. Knowledge of no trespassing is stated when there’s fencing done, or when there is a ‘no trespass’ sign on the property. A person can be held liable for trespass in public places too, if he or she enters after the closing time or if they fail to leave even when asked to. It needs to be demonstrated that the unlawful entry was with an intention to commit an offence, or to intimidate or to annoy the person who owns the property. The intent to intimidate, insult or annoy is a must for trespass of a criminal nature.

Legal provisions under IPC:

Section 441 of IPC defines ‘criminal trespass’, while section 447 provides the punishment for it. They read as under:

Section 441:

Criminal trespass.— Whoever enters into or upon property in the possession of another with intent to commit an offence or to intimidate, insult or annoy any person in possession of such property, or having lawfully entered into or upon such property, unlawfully remains there with intent thereby to intimidate, insult or annoy any such person, or with intent to commit an offence, is said to commit “criminal trespass”.

Section 447:

Punishment for criminal trespass: Whoever commits criminal trespass shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both. 

Illustrations:

Mathri v. State of Punjab

In this case, it was reiterated by the court that the dominant intention of the trespasser must be to commit an offence or to intimidate, insult or annoy the person in possession of the property. The accused had a warrant for the delivery of possession from the defendant. However, at the time of the entry, the warrant wasn’t executable. The Supreme Court held that the intention for such trespass was only to execute a warrant and therefore the act did not constitute a criminal offence.

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