Robbery has been 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 of injury, with an intention of permanently depriving the true owner of the thing in question. In common language robbery means to deprive a person of his or her property. Robbery is a special and aggravated form of either theft or extortion. The main distinguishing element 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 instant hurt or instant death or instant wrongful restraint.
DEFINITION AND MEANING OF ROBBERY UNDER IPC
Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code defines robbery that in all the offences of robbery there is either theft or extortion. The explanation attached to this 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 wrongful restraint, or of instant hurt.
As Robbery is always an aggravated form of either theft or extortion as defined by this Code, it is sometimes difficult to identify as to which part is robbery by theft and which one is robbery by extortion. For example, A enters into Z’s house and while putting a knife in the neck of his child asks him to give A all the valuables. While Z starts collecting all the valuables in order to surrender to A, A himself starts picking up some of the other valuable security.
ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF ROBBERY
The essential ingredients of Robbery are:
- In order to commit the offence of robbery, the commission of theft is must as defined in Section 378;
- For committing the offence of robbery, the act of theft by the offender must combine with causing or attempting to cause fear of instant hurt, or instant death, or instant wrongful restraint; and
- When the extortion is robbery, the offender must have been in presence of the person and subsequently has put the person in fear of instant injury or instant wrongful restraint or instant death and by causing so has induced the person to deliver the property in possession of the person so put in fear.
When theft is robbery: The offence Theft will become robbery when in order to commit theft or while committing theft, or while attempting to carry away the 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 hurt, fear of instant death or instant wrongful restraint. Thus, theft becomes robbery when the following essentials/conditions are satisfied;
- When the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause:
- Death, wrongful restraint or hurt or
- Fear of instant death, instant hurt, or instant wrongful restraint.
- 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.
Illustration: A holds B down and fraudulently takes B’s money from B’s clothes without B’s consent. Here A has committed theft, and while committing that theft, he has voluntarily caused wrongful restraint to B. A has therefore committed robbery.
When extortion is robbery: The offence of extortion will become robbery when the offender at the time of committing the extortion in the presence putting the person in fear of injury and commits extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, instant hurt, or instant wrongful restraint to that person or some other person and by doing so induces the person under such fear to then and there deliver the thing that has been extorted.
Thus, extortion becomes robbery when the following essentials/conditions are satisfied;
1. When a person commits extortion by putting another in the fear of instant death, instant hurt, or instant wrongful restraint.
2. Then the offender induces the person, so put in fear, to deliver the property at that very instance; then
3. The offender is in the presence of such a person put in fear at the time of extortion.
Illustrations: A meets B and B’s child on the highway. A takes the child and threatens to fling it down a precipice unless B delivers his wallet to A. B, in consequence, delivers his purse. Here A has extorted the wallet from B, by causing B to be in fear of instant hurt to the child who is present. A has therefore robbed B.
However, if A obtains property from B by saying, “Your child is in the hands of my gang, and they will kill him unless you send us ten thousand rupees.” This is the offence of extortion, and punishable as such, but it would not be the offence of robbery unless B is put in fear of the instant death of his child.
PUNISHMENT FOR THE OFFENCE OF ROBBERY
Section 392 of the Indian Penal Code states that if any person commits robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the robbery is committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to 14 years.
Essential ingredients for punishment under section 392:
- The accused committed theft;
- voluntarily caused or attempted to cause;
- Death, hurt or wrongful restraint,
- Fear of instant death, instant hurt, or instant wrongful restraint;
3. The accused did either act for the end;
- of committing theft,
- while committing theft,
- carrying away or the attempt to carry away property obtained by theft.
Section 393 of the Indian Penal Code states that if any person attempts to commit robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to a fine.
Section 394 of the Indian Penal Code states that 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.
The following cases will help us in understanding the judicial standpoint of Robbery in the Indian Judicial System:
State of Maharashtra vs. Joseph Mingel koli and Ors.
In this present case, it was held that in order to establish the offence of robbery by committing the offence of theft it was essential to prove all the five necessary essentials laid down under Section 378 which is said to constitute theft. If anyone of the five ingredients of Section 378 has not happened while committing theft, the offence of robbery under Section 390 cannot be said to have been committed
Ram Baran v. Emperor 
The fact of this case was that a large number of people under the influence of religious sentiments had attacked a group of Muslim people who were driving their cattle along a public road. After this, the group forcefully deprived the Muslim people of their cattle. This was held to be a case of dacoity and not robbery amounting to murder because of the absence of fear of instant death or instant hurt.
- Sood, Jyoti Dogra. “PSA PILLAI’S CRIMINAL LAW.” (2018): 357-360.
- Ratanlal Ranchhoddas. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal’s the Indian Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860). New Delhi :Wadhwa & Co., 2007.
 Venu v State of Karnataka, (2008) 3 SCC 94 : (2008) 1 SCC (Cr) 623 : AIR 2008 SC 1199 : 2008 Cr LJ 1634.
 Subs. By Act 26 of 1955, section 117 and Sch, for “transportation for life” ( w.e.f. 1 January 1956 ).
 State of Maharashtra v Joseph Mingel koli and ors. , 1997 (2) Crimes 228 (Bom.).
 Emperor v Ram Baran Singh and ors. , (1920) ILR 42 All 474.
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