A market for stolen goods is the best encouragement for theft, robbery, dacoity and similar crimes. In order to curtail such crimes, it is important that there exists no demand for such goods. However, the stolen goods being available at rates lower than the market rate of a genuine product invariably attract many buyers, thus providing a market for the articles wrongfully gained. To discourage theft, therefore, acceptance of stolen property and dealing with it has been made a punishable act under the IPC 1860.
MEANING AND DEFINITION UNDER IPC
Stolen property: It is defined under section 410 of the Indian Penal code as property, the possession whereof has been transferred by theft, or by extortion, or by robbery, and property which has been criminally misappropriated or in respect of which criminal breach of trust has been committed, is designed as ‘stolen property’, whether the transfer has been made, or the misappropriation or breach of trust has been committed, within or without India. But, if such property subsequently comes into the possession of a person legally entitled to the possession thereof, it then ceases to be stolen property.
Dishonestly receiving stolen property: It is defined under section 411 of the Indian Penal Code as whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 410 explains the phrase “stolen property” and section 411 provides punishment for “dishonestly receiving stolen property”. It is directed against the receiver of stolen property and not against the thief or the perpetrator of other offences mentioned in section 410, IPC. Receiving stolen property from any person constitutes an offence. Hence, it is not necessary that the principal offender should be convicted for putting provisions of section 411 in action. Conviction of the principal offender, in no ways, operates as the prerequisite of section 411. Mere proof of the fact that the property received by the accused was the “stolen property” is enough to convict him.
Essential ingredients for receipt of stolen property are as follows:
- Property should be stolen property
The property is received by a person must be stolen property to constitute an offence of receiving stolen property under the provisions of the Code. Property whose possession is transferred by the five ways given in Section 410 is considered a stolen property. Those are: a) by theft; b) by extortion; c) by robbery; d) by criminal misappropriation; e) by criminal breach of trust.
- Ownerless property
It is based on the concept of res nullius which means that a property that has no owner or which has been abandoned by its actual owner. A property that has no owner cannot be subject to theft and hence, receiving it would not lead to receipt of stolen property. For e.g- a bull has been abandoned by its owner and belongs to no one, taking it would not amount to receiving of stolen property.
- Within or without India
Section 410 says that it is immaterial to consider whether the transfer has been made, or criminal misappropriation or breach of trust has been committed, within or outside India. The transfer of such property can be made within or without India to qualify it as “stolen property”.
- Property obtained otherwise
It must be noted that property obtained by cheating or forgery is not called stolen property.
- Property exchanged or converted
A property that is obtained by exchanging or converting stolen property is not stolen property in itself. For e.g. if some amount of cash is obtained by selling a stolen property then that cash would not be called stolen property. However, if an ingot is made by melting stolen jewelry or ornament, then that ingot would be stolen property as it is the same in substance, though altered in appearance.
Dishonestly Receiving or Retaining Stolen Property
Section 411 proposes that whoever dishonestly receives or retains a stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe that such property is a stolen one, shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend up to three years, or with a fine, or both. Therefore, any person who believes or knows about any stolen property must not receive or retain it.
The liability under Section 411 arises not only for dishonest “reception” but also for dishonest “retention”. The difference between the two is that in the former, the person has received the property dishonestly but may not necessarily retain it dishonestly. However, in the latter, there is a change in the mind of the person from “honest” to “dishonest” and he then retains that property dishonestly with himself.
Offence under Section 411 is cognizable and warrant should be issued in the first instance. The offence is non-bailable and compoundable with the permission of the Court. The offence is tried under the Magistrate.
Receiving or Retaining Stolen Property with Knowledge
If a person has obtained a property that he does not know to be stolen, it is not sufficient to show that the accused was careless, or he had reason to suspect that the property was stolen or he did not make sufficient enquiry to ascertain the status of that property. It is immaterial whether the person receiving it knows or not who stole it. Initial possessing of that property is not a crime but if the person retains it after knowing that it was stolen property, then the person is liable.
In the case of Nagappa Dhondiba v. State, here the stolen ornaments of a deceased person which she had been wearing when she was alive were discovered, from the information given by the accused, within thirty days of the murder of the deceased. It was held by the Court that the accused can only be made liable under Section 411 and not under Section 302 for murder or Section 394 for voluntarily causing hurt in pursuance of robbery as there was no evidence to establish the liability of the person on those grounds.
Receiving Property Stolen in the Commission of a Dacoity
Section 412 says that any person who dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, the possession of which, after having knowledge and reason to believe, has been transferred by the commission of dacoity, or has dishonestly received from a person, whom he knows or has reason to believe to belong or to have belonged to a gang of dacoits, a property which he has knowledge or has reason to believe that the property is a stolen one, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend up to ten years and shall also be liable for a fine.
Habitually Dealing in Stolen Property
Section 413 states that any person who habitually receives or deals in a stolen property, having knowledge or reason to believe that the property is a stolen one, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to ten years, and shall also be liable for fine.
Concealing and Disposing of Stolen Property
Section 414 deals with concealing and disposing of stolen property. It states that any person who voluntarily assists in concealing or disposing of that property or making away of that property which he has knowledge of or reasons to believe to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to three years, or with fine, or both.
The provision seeks to protect the crimes like theft, and robbery as receiving of stolen property would encourage such acts. A person engaging in obtaining stolen property commits a crime of receiving stolen property. However, there must be a dishonest intention and knowledge or reason to believe that the property being received is a stolen one to establish the guilt of the person.
 Mir Nagvi Askaru v CBI, (2009) 15 SCC 643 : AIR 2010 SC 528.
 AIR 1980 SC 1753, 1980 CriLJ 1270, 1980 Supp (1) SCC 336, 1981 (13) UJ 344 SC
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