Dacoity is defined in section 391 of the Indian Penal Code 1860;
When 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 amounts to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit “Dacoity”.
In other words, Dacoity is a robbery committed by five or more persons. The total number of persons involved at whatever level either as the main persons or as aiders should be five. They should be involved in either committing, attempting to commit or in aiding the commission of robbery.
ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS THAT CONSTITUTE DACOITY IN INDIAN PENAL CODE:
1. Five or more persons act in association,
2. Act must be robbery or attempt to commit robbery.
3. Five persons must consent of those who themselves commit or attempt to commit robbery or those who are present and aid the principal actors in the commission or attempt of such robbery.
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF DACOITY:
1. Five or more persons
The commission of robbery in association by five or more persons is an essential ingredient of the offence under this section. In Saktu Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1973, SC 760, apart from the named seven or eight persons, there were five or six others, who allegedly had taken part in the commission of Dacoity. It was not disputed that in all, more than 13 or 14 persons had taken part in the robbery. A large number of persons were acquitted as their identity could not be established.
However, there was evidence that there were more than five persons who committed robbery in the house so the conviction under section 391 and 395 was sustained.
In Om Prakash Vs. State of Rajasthan AIR 1998 SC 1220, the Supreme Court ruled that where the charge of Dacoity is against five persons and out of them two are acquitted, the remaining three cannot be convicted for Dacoity.
2. Such act should be robbery or attempt to commit robbery.
It is essential that act which is alleged to be complained of should be robbery. As per Section 390 of the IPC, Robbery is defined as “In all robbery there is either theft or extortion”. Robbery is an aggravated form of either theft or extortion. The opening line of section 391 establishes that there cannot be Dacotiy, where robbery isn’t there.
3. Conjointly commit or attempt to commit:
To constitute Dacoity, there must not only be five or more persons but they must work co-jointly to commit or attempt to commit. The word ‘conjointly’ means united or in association. All the five persons should act in a concerted manner participating in the transaction. For example, a group of 5 persons enters a house and beat up the family sleeping outside. One accused broke open the door, three of the accused went inside and the other two kept guard outside. All the accused help remove the boxes and later, two of the accused carry away two boxes. It was held that the beating, the guarding and the robbery were all part of some transaction and all the accused acted conjointly. They were all held to be guilty of committing Dacoity u/s 391 and 395 IPC.
4. Dishonest Intention
A person present and aiding the commission or attempt to commit robbery stands on same footing for the purposes of this section. The dishonest intention is an essential element of both theft and extortion, therefore as both Dacoity and robbery is aggravated form of both theft and extortion, therefore, there cannot be offence of Dacoity under this section, unless an element of dishonest intention on the part of offender is present.
PUNISHMENT FOR DACOITY IN INDIA:
Indian penal code provides;
Whoever commits Dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.
Dacoity is a grave offence and hence courts have held that in cases of Dacoity, extreme deterrence is called for. In awarding punishments for Dacoity, two aspects are primarily considered:
1. Having regards to the gravity of the offence committed, the punishment that each individual deserves.
2. In light of facts and circumstances of a particular case, whether an unusually heavy sentence is required in order to protect the interests of the public at large by creating deterrence for others.
However, in view of the facts and circumstances of certain cases, the Supreme Court in several cases has imposed lighter punishments.
Offences Connected with Dacoity;
Dacoity is the only offence listed in IPC which the legislature has made punishable at its three stages vide sections 399, 400 and 402.
a) Making preparations for commission of Dacoity. Any person who makes preparation is punishable u/s 399.
b) Assembling for the purpose of committing Dacoity. Each of the person assembles is guilty u/s 402.
c) Belonging to a gang of Dacoits u/s 400.
IPC fastens Joint liability on persons conjointly committing Dacoity for murder committed by any of them during the pursuance of Dacoity.
Section 396 IPC states;
If any of the five persons, who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.
To establish culpability under 396, following are the essential ingredients;
1. Five or more participants commit dacoity conjointly.
2. One or more participants commit murder.
3. Murder is committed during the act of dacoity.
Therefore, section 396 provides punishment for an aggravated form of dacoity, in as such as it deals with the situation where the offender commits murder in course of dacoity. So if in the course of committing such dacoity, any of the five or more persons commit murder, then each one of them will be made vicariously liable for the act of murder under section 396 IPC, even if the individuals concerned did not participate in committing the murder. In Laliya Vs. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1967 Raj 134, the Rajasthan High Court held that the decision as to whether the murder is or is not a part of transaction of dacoity has to be taken in the backdrop of facts and circumstances of case.
The court laid down following parameters to test;
1. Whether the dacoits retreated without plunder and the murder was committed while retreating.
2. The interval between the attempt of dacoity and the commission of murder.
3. The distance between the places where the attempt at dacoity was committed and murder was committed.
4. Whether the dacoits abandoned all the booty and lapse of interval between the abandonment of booty and the commission of the murder.
Therefore, a murder committed in an unconnected transaction, or, during a different transaction than of dacoity, does not bring section 396 in play. Only murder committed during the course of dacoity attracts section 396.