OFFENCE OF ROBBERY AS UNDER INDIAN PENAL CODE
In layman’s terms, ‘to rob’ implies to deprive a person of his or her property. And one may wonder how at all robbery then is distinguished from extortion or theft? Essentially, in the latter two too, a person is deprived of property. Here comes the fine nuances of law and closer inspection into the cause of things, the motive and methods of conduction. On closer inspection, one may find that the chief distinguishing element in robbery, theft and extortion is the presence of imminent fear of violence.
Section 390 of Indian Penal Code 1860, Defines 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 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.
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.
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. Thus, robbery is an aggravated form of either theft or extortion.
The opening words of section 390 IPC, there cannot be any robbery if there is no theft or extortion. Both in theft or extortion, dishonesty is an essential ingredient. So if there is no element of dishonesty in an act, there can be no offence of theft or extortion and consequently there cannot be offence of robbery.
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF ROBBERY UNDER INDIAN PENAL CODE:
1. Causing death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear thereof:
One of the essential ingredients to constitute the offence of robbery is that the offender should have caused to any person death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear of instant death or instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint.
ln Harish Chander Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1976 SC 1430, the victim boarded a train at Charpur railway station. The accused and the co-accused along with some other persons boarded the same compartment as the train reached Thankpur railway station at about 9.30 p.m., some of the passengers started getting down from the compartment causing rush. At that time, the accused forcibly took away the wristwatch of the victim and as the victim raised an alarm, the co-accused slapped the victim while his other companion hit the victim him with a stick. Later, both the accused jumped out of the compartment. It was argued on behalf of the defense that since the slapping of the victim took place after the watch had been stolen, the hurt could not have been said to be caused in order to commit the theft. Therefore the offence cannot be brought under section 390 of the Indian Penal Code 360. However, the Supreme Court rejected the argument stating that the co-accused slapped the victim to enable the accused to carry away the stolen property and the conviction of accused was upheld. Therefore, a view was taken by the Apex court that willful/ conscious violence committed in the course of commission of theft, turns it into robbery.
In Mohinder Singh Vs. State of Haryana (1996) 4 Crimes 11 (SC) the victim was a taxi driver. When he was standing at a near taxi stand, a clean shaven young man hired the complainant’s car. A sum of Rs 400 was paid to the complainant as advance. A few minutes later, co-accused came and got into that car. A few hours later, when the car was on its way, the clean shaven man placed a revolver on the neck of the complainant and asked him to stop the car. Out of the fear, the complainant stopped the car the immediately. The clean shaved man fired in air and his companion demanded the return of the sum Rs. 400 paid as advance, thereafter, he was pushed out of the car. The court convicted the accused under section 390 IPC in the present case.
2. For that end:
Section 390 will apply only if the death, hurt or wrongful restraint or fear thereof is caused for the purpose of achieving the end object of commission of theft or carrying away the stolen property. The words ‘for that end’ are thus very crucial which distinguish a case of theft accompanied by assault which is covered by section 379 and 323 from that of robbery. Thus, if the death, hurt or wrongful restraint has been not caused for the end of achieving the object of theft or carrying away the stolen property, then it will not amount to an offence of robbery under section 390, IPC.
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 as it was held by supreme court in Harish Chandra’s case, if the hurt is caused to overcome the resistance or to enable the carrying away of the movable property, then also the offence will be robbery.
A has abandoned the stolen property and was running away and was chased by others and he used violence against pursuers, such violence was not committed for the end of committing theft or of carrying away the stolen property and hence it would not amount to an offence under this section.
Section 392, IPC provides Punishment for Robbery.
Whoever commit 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 highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years.
It is pertinent to note that section 392, which is a general provision providing for punishment for robbery, also provides for an enhanced punishment in certain aggravated circumstances. As per the second part of section 392, if a robbery is committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to 14 years.
Section 393 Provides punishment for attempt to commit robbery:
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;
AGGRAVATED FORM OF ROBBERY
Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery:
If any person, in committing or in attempting to commit robbery, voluntarily causes hurt, such person, and any other person jointly concerned in committing or attempting to commit such robbery, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 394 is a special provision, which is applicable to cases were the offender has actually caused the hurt to the victim for the purpose of committing robbery or in attempt to commit robbery. The punishment provided under section 394 is more severe than that provided under the first part of section 392.
In order to verify whether a particular act would amount to robbery or not, one has to establish that the offences have essential ingredients of theft or extortion. It can be said that robbery is an aggravated form of theft or extortion. An aggravated form which necessarily contains violence. Theft or extortion or attempt to commit any one of the two is an inevitable ingredient of robbery.