Author: Asmita Chakraborty


Introduction:

Robbery has been defined as “Felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear[1], according to Black’s Law Dictionary. In other words, there must be taking of some property from the presence of the possessor by use of force.

In India, Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with Robbery under Section 390 and defines robbery as:

“Robbery.— In all robbery there is either theft or extortion.

When theft is robbery.—Theft is “robbery” if, in order to the committing of the theft, or in committing the theft, or in carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft, the offender, for that end, voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death or hurt or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint.

When extortion is robbery.—Extortion is “robbery” if the offend­er, at the time of committing the extortion, is in the presence of the person put in fear, and commits the extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint to that person or to some other person, and, by so putting in fear, induces the person so put in fear then and there to deliver up the thing extorted.

Explanation.—The offender is said to be present if he is suffi­ciently near to put the other person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint.”[2]

It is easy to infer from the definition that the Section provides no clear definition of what basically is robbery, rather it points to what consists of robbery. It clearly says that in robbery there must be extortion or theft. Hence, we fall back on the definition given in Black’s Law Dictionary to understand what Robbery is per se. As already mentioned above, the Section also clearly says, when a theft amounts to robbery and when extortion amounts to robbery.

Ingredients:

The essential ingredients of Robbery as per Section 390 are:

  • There must have been commission of theft as defined in Section 378;
  • The act of theft must have been committed by the offender causing or attempting to cause fear of death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear of instant death or instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint; and
  • There must have been commission of extortion as defined in Section 383 and while doing so the offender must have been in presence of the person and subsequently has put the person in fear of instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint or instant death and by causing so has induces the person to deliver some property in possession of the person so put in fear.

Punishment for Robbery:

The punishment for commission of robbery as given under Section 392 gives the quantum of punishment as rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 10 year and fine. However, if the Robbery is committed on the highway between sunrise and sunset then the imprisonment may extend up to 14 years. It must be noted that the provision for fine under this Section is a “shall” provision, which makes it mandatory to pay fine. However, the quantum of punishment for robbery is much more in comparison with the crime when compared to certain offences which result in causing of death and the punishment for the same is very less, like for Death due to Negligence.

Robbery v. Theft:

The basic difference between Robbery and Theft has been summarized below:

  • Theft is the taking of property from the possession of the owner without the consent of the owner whereas Robbery is the aggravated form of theft.
  • Theft can be with respect to movable property only while robbery can be committed with respect to immovable and movable property.
  • Theft can be committed by one person but robbery can be committed by more than one person.
  • Element of compulsion is missing in case of the theft on the other hand element of compulsion and force is necessary in case of robbery.
  • Element of fear is absent in case of theft while it is necessary in case of robbery.
  • Punishment for theft extends up to three years of punishment or with fine or with both while in case of robbery it extends up to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and fine.

Robbery v. Dacoity:

In order to understand the difference between dacoity and Robbery, it is first important to understand what dacoity is.

Section 391 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines dacoity as five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding is said to commit “dacoity”. Hence, in order to be an offence under Section 391, the following ingredients must be present:

  • There must be five or more people doing the act or robbery. Five is the minimum number of people required to constitute the offence of dacoity.
  • The five or more people must conjointly or together commit the offence of robbery.

The major difference between Robbery and Dacoity are the following:

  • Robbery includes either theft or extortion whereas dacoity is commission of robbery by five or more people.
  • Robbery may be committed with respect to immovable and movable property, but in case of dacoity, there is robbery of immovable property only in case of extortion and not otherwise.
  • While robbery can be done by one or more person, it is necessary to have minimum of five person to constitute dacoity
  • Presence of element of fear is essential in cases of robbery but in dacoity use of force is there.

Judicial overview:

The following cases will help us in ascertaining the judicial standpoint of Robbery in Indian Judicial System:

  • State of Maharashtra V. Joseph Mingel[3]

In this case, it was held that in order to establish Robbery by Theft it was essential to prove all the 5 necessary ingredients laid down under Section 378 which is said to constitute theft. If anyone of the five ingredients of Section 378 is not fulfilled then, robbery under Section 390 cannot be said to have been committed

  • Abdul Rashid V. Nausar Ali[4]

In this case, some armed person had entered the field of the plaintiff and was cutting the crops of the plaintiff. However, it was held that this did not amount to Robbery rather it amounted to theft, as the element of threat was missing.

  • Ram Baran V. Emperor[5]

A large number of people under the influence of religious sentiments had attacked a group of Muslim people who were driving cattle along the public road. After this, the group had forcefully deprived the Muslim people of their cattle. This was held to be a case of dacoity and not robbery amounting to murder.

Conclusion:

Robbery as defined under Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 will always either consist of theft or extortion. Robbery is considered as the aggravated form of extortion or theft. Hence, transitively in order to constitute theft amounting to robbery or extortion amounting to robbery, it is essential to fulfil the necessary ingredients of theft as defined under Section 378 and extortion as defined under Section 383. However, in order to turn into robbery from extortion or robbery from theft, there must be an element of instant threat or instant injury or instant death. However, robbery is to be understood separately from dacoity, whereby, there is a need for a minimum of five people. Hence, it is essential to understand the difference between the four offences as they are often thought to be similar by any layman whereas in the legal field they are not.


[1] Hawk. P. C. 25; 4 Bl. Comm. 243; United States v. Jones, 3 Wash. C. C. 209, F.Cas.No.15,494; Armstrong v. Commonwealth, 190 Ky. 217, 227 S.W. 162, 163; Robards v. State, 37 Okl.Cr. 371, 259 P. 166, 168.

[2] Robbery, http://www.Indiankanoon.org, available at https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1905008/.

[3] 1997(1) BOM CRLJ 362.

[4] 1979 CRLJ 1158 (CAL).

[5] 1983 15 ALL 299.


About the Author: Asmita is a third-year law student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna.


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