A total of 4,93,172 cases of theft were reported in India in 2020, with 52 of these cases against foreigners.

What is Theft?

Last updated on Apr 8, 2022

Theft is when someone takes away your property without your consent. Theft is a crime in India and the person committing theft is punished with jail time of up to 3 years and/or a fine.1 Theft is a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

It is theft when2:

You have a dishonest intention to take away property

There is an intention to take away property dishonestly i.e. one intended to cause illegal gains to oneself while causing someone else illegal losses3. For example, if Shyam breaks into Ram’s house and steals his money with the intention to cause illegal gains to himself while causing Ram illegal losses.

You have not taken consent to move the property

The property has been taken away without consent3. For example, if Ram’s dog is chained up in his yard, and Shyam takes it away without asking Ram. However, there are certain conditions in place, such as:

  • The consent can be given by the person who owns the property, or by any other person who has authority over that property
  • The consent can be explicit or implicit

You move property 

It is theft when some movable property i.e. it is tangible and is not attached to the earth, has been moved. Some examples are:

  • Any property has been detached from the earth. For example, one steals pipe fittings which were connected to a borewell.
  • Some obstacles have been removed which allowed removing some property. For example, if a bicycle’s lock is removed and the bicycle is taken away.
  • An animal has been used to remove some property. For example, if a donkey is attached to a cart of goods, and to steal those goods, the donkey is taken away.
  • It involves the actual act of taking away property4.

Theft is not just a crime if personal items are stolen. Many other forms of theft are there and the law punishes people who commit theft based on:

  • The item stolen
  • The situation of theft
  • The person who commits theft.
  1. Section 379, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 378, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  3. K.N. Mehra v. State of Rajasthan (1957) SCR 623.[][]
  4. State of Maharashtra v. Vishwanath Tukuram Umale & Ors., (1979) 4 SCC 23.[]

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