‘Mischief’ is defined under section 425 of the Indian Penal Code. In fact, the section corresponds to the offence known in English law as “malicious injury to property” in which malice is presumed from the nature of the act committed and its illegality. Section 425 of the IPC based on the principle enunciated in the maxim “Sec utare two ut allenum non leadas ” which means use your own property, so as to not injure your neighbor’s (or other’s) property.
According to section 425 of Indian Penal Code, the mischief is defined as:
Whoever with intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person causes the destruction of any property or any such change in any property or in situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility or affects in injuriously commits “mischief”.
a) A voluntarily bunts a valuable security belonging to Z intending to cause wrongful loss to Z. has committed mischief.
b) A causes cattle to enter upon a field belonging to Z, intending to cause and knowing that he is likely to cause damage to Z’s crop. A has committed mischief.
1. An intention or knowledge of likelihood to cause wrongful loss or damage to:
a. the public or
b. any person (mens rea of mischief);
2. Causing the destruction of some property or any change in it or in its situation, and;
3. Such change must destroy or diminish its value or utility or affect it injuriously.
Detailed Analysis of Mischief under Indian Law:
1. Intention or knowledge to cause wrongful loss or damage;
a) The mere fact that any loss or damage was caused to the property would, by itself not sufficient cause to constitute mischief unless the intention of the offender was to cause wrongful loss or wrongful damage to the person considered. Instance where either intention or knowledge is present, then the act will amount to mischief such as;
(i) Where intention is present:
A voluntarily throws into a river a ring belonging to z with the intention of thereby causing wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
(ii) Where knowledge is present:
A knew by blocking the canal through which the B has a right to take water to his land wrongful loss would be caused to B and B blocks it. A has committed mischief.
(iii) When neither intention nor knowledge is present.
Where the accused believed in good faith that he had a right to do what he did, even if in law he did not have that right, it was held that he lacked the intention or knowledge that he was likely to cause wrongful loss or damage, thus no mischief is committed.
b) Wrongful loss or damage:
The inclusion of the term ‘damage’ along with the wrongful loss makes it clear that the legislature wanted to bring within the purview of the offence not just the acts which result in wrongful loss but also instances of all types of damage by unlawful means which includes invasion of right or diminishing of value of property, etc.
2. Causing destruction of any property or any change in it;
a) To constitute the offence of mischief there must be destruction of property. It is a held view of courts, even the trifling damage is sufficient to constitute the offence of mischief if other ingredients are established.
A causes a shop to be cast away, intending thereby lo cause damage to Z who has lent money on bottomry on the ship. A has committed mischief.
b) The term “change” used in section 425 means a physical change in composition or form of property. It contemplates injury to property from a physical cause.
A introduces water into ice – house belonging to Z and thus causes the ice to melt, intending wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
3. Destroys or diminishes the value or utility;
The expression “Change in property” so as to destroy or diminish its value or utility does not necessarily mean a change in character, composition or form. If something is done to the property contrary to its natural use and serviceability that destroys or diminishes its value or utility, it will amount to mischief.
Punishment for Mischief is given in section 426:
Whoever commits mischief shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months or with fine or with both.
Mischief, like most of the offences under the IPC, comprises of mental element mens rea and physical element actus reus. The former lies in the doer’s intent to cause or knowledge that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person, whereas, actus reus for mischief is the destruction of property or any change in its situation that destroys or diminishes its value or utility.
SECTION 436 OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860 DEALS WITH;
Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.
Whoever commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, the destruction of any building which is ordinarily used as a place of worship or as a human dwelling or as a place for the custody of property, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.