Legal Provisions Regarding “Robbery” – Section 390 of IPC

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.

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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, or 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, or of instant hurt, or of instant Wrongful restraint.

Illustrations:

(a) A holds Z down, and fraudulently takes Z’s money and jewels from Z’s clothes, without Z’s consent. Here A has committed theft, and, in order to the committing of that theft, has voluntarily caused wrongful restraint to Z. A has therefore committed robbery.

(b) A meets Z on the high road, shows a pistol, and demands Z’s purse. Z, in consequence, surrenders his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from Z by putting him in fear of instant hurt, and being at the time of committing the extortion in his presence. A has therefore committed robbery.

(c) A meets Z and Z’s child on the high road. A takes the child, and threatens to fling it down a precipice, unless Z delivers his purse. Z, in consequence, delivers his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from Z, by causing Z to be in fear of instant hurt to the child who is there present. A has therefore committed robbery on Z.

(d) A obtains property from Z by saying – “Your child is in the hands of my gang, and will be put to death unless you send us ten thousand rupees.” This is extortion, and punishable as such: but it is not robbery, unless Z is put in fear of the instant death of his child.

Important Points:

A. Meaning:

Robbery means a felonious taking from the person of another or in his presence or against his will, by violence or putting him in fear. Robbery is an aggravated form of theft or extortion. If there is no theft or no extortion, there is no robbery.

B. In all robbery there is either theft or extortion:

The framers of the Indian Penal Code observed: “There can be no case of robbery which does not fall within the definition either of theft or extortion; but in a practice it will perpetually be a matter of doubt whether a particular act of robbery was a theft or extortion.

A large proportion of robberies will be half theft, half extortion. A seizes Z, threatens to murder him, unless he delivers all his property, and begins to pull of Z ornaments. Z in terror begs A will take all he has, and spare his life, assists in taking of his ornaments, and delivers them to A. Here, such ornaments as A took without Z’s consent is taken by theft.

Those which Z delivered from fear of death or acquired by extortion. It is by no means improbable that Z’s right arm bracelet may have been obtained by theft and left arm bracelet by extortion; that the rupees in Z’s girdle may have been obtained by theft and those in his turban by extortion.

Probable in nine-tenths of the robberies which are committed something like this actually takes place, and it is probable a few minutes later neither the robber nor the person robbed would be able to recollect in what proportions theft and extortion were mixed in the crime; nor is it at all necessary for the ends of justice that this should be ascertained.

For though, in general, the consent of a suffer is a circumstance which vary materially modifies the character of an offence, and which ought, therefore, to be made known to the Courts, yet the consent which a person gives to the taking of this property by a ruffian who holds a pistol to his breast is a circumstance altogether immaterial.”

C. When theft is robbery: Before theft can amount to robbery,—

Firstly:

The offender must have voluntarily caused or attempted 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,

Secondly:

This must be in order to the committing of theft, or in committing of theft, or in carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft,

Thirdly:

The offender must voluntarily cause or attempt to cause to any person hurt, etc., for that end, that is in order to committing theft or for carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft,

Fourthly:

The offender must voluntarily attempt one or any of the above acts.

D. When extortion is robbery:

Similar to the above point, extortion becomes 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, or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint to that person or to some other, and, by so putting in fear induces the person so put in fear then and there to deliver up the thing or property extorted.

E. Punishment:

Sec. 392 imposes punishment for robbery. It lies down that whoever 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 be committed on the high-way between the sun-set and the sun-rise, the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years.

Inquiry:

The nature of offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

F. Sikander Kumar vs. State [1998 (3) Crimes 69 Delhi HC]

The prosecution was that the two appellants pointed a knife at the complainant and took Rs. 50/- and drove away the auto of the complainant. Next day the accused were arrested in Nakabandi in presence of complainant. One independent witness turned hostile.

The trial Court imposed punishment against Sikander Kumar and other accused. On appeal, the Delhi High Court set aside the conviction, opining that entire prosecution story was inherently improbable and unbelievable. It would be unsafe to place total reliance on testimony of complainant to base conviction as one independent witness turned hostile.

G. Attempt to commit robbery:

Sec. 393 says that whoever 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 fine. The offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

H. Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery:

According to Sec. 394, if the offender while committing robbery voluntarily causes hurt to the complainant, such offender shall be punished with imprisonment with life or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and also fine. The offence under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Magistrate of the first class.

I. Omprakash vs. State (1978 CrLJ 797 All.)

In this case, the accused committed a high-way robbery. They looted the passengers of the bus. The trial Court imposed punishment for life. On appeal High Court upheld it.

J. Narayan Prasad vs. State of M.P. (AIR 2006 SC 204)

Brief Facts: The accused did robbery and also killed the wife of the complainant. The complainant identified the accused in the Identification Parade. The accused showed the stolen property.

Recovery effected at the instance of accused not claimed by them, except one N who claimed that those were purchased by him under receipt. One of the PWs hostiled. The accused were convicted by the trial Court and it was confirmed by the High Court.

Judgment:

The Supreme Court confirmed the trial Court judgment.

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