Difference between Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity under Indian Penal Code, 1860

Shruti Lamba

For a State to function in harmony it is necessary to not only protect an individual’s life and maintain public tranquility, rather the property of an individual should also be protected by the State. Thus, all the jurisprudential systems of the world provide for the protection of properties from earliest time. And so thus the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for offences against the property.

Property can be mainly classified into two heads viz movable property and immovable property. Any offence which is committed with respect to the property, whether it be movable or immovable property is accounted to be punishable under The Indian Penal Code. Chapter XVII of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter as IPC) provides for offences against the property viz Section 378 to Section 462 IPC.

Offences against Property

As per IPC, Offences against property can be classified as follows:

  • Theft
  • Extortion
  • Robbery and dacoity
  • Criminal misappropriation of property
  • Criminal breach of trust
  • Criminal trespass
  • Fraudulent deed and deposition of the property
  • Mischief
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Cheating

Section 378 – Theft

To a layman, theft is nothing but taking someone’s property without his/her consent. But the law of crimes defines theft precisely giving more details and widening its scope. Section 378 IPC provides legal definition for theft stating:

“Whoever, intending to take dishonestly any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that per­son’s consent, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft.”

In other words, it can be said that Section 378 IPC defines theft as dishonest removal of property out of someone’s possession without his or her consent.

“Explanation —A thing so long as it is attached to the earth, not being movable property, is not the subject of theft; but it becomes capable of being the subject of theft as soon as it is severed from the earth.”

In simple words the above explanation can be summarized as, only a movable property can be subject to theft. Any property that is attached to earth is considered to be immovable property, until severed and is not subject to theft.

“Explanation —The consent mentioned in the definition may be express or implied and may be given either by the person in possession, or by any person having for that purpose authority either express or implied.”

The explanation states that if consent is received to move the property either expressly or impliedly then such an act of moving shall not the accounted as theft under this section and such consent shall move either from the person in possession of such property or by the person authorized by the owner, expressly or impliedly, to give consent with regard to this.

Illustration: Mr. A went to Mr. B’s house and finds a gold ring lying on the table and he takes the ring and hides it at a place in the house itself where Mr. B cannot find it, with an intention to take it from the hiding place later and sell it. The act very first act of moving the ring from the table accounts to theft under section 378 IPC.

But at the same time if Mr. A does so with the intention of just pranking Mr. B then it would not account to theft under this section because the act was not done with dishonest intention.

Essential Ingredients of Theft

  • Intention to take dishonestly
  • Any movable property
  • Taking out possession of another person
  • Taking without consent
  • Moving property in order to such taking

In the leading case of Pyare Lal Bhargava v State of Rajasthan[1], the hon’ble Supreme Court pointed out four essentials of the offence of the theft as to convict a person under the offence of theft his act should fall under the four corners namely, taking the property out of legal possession, taking the property either temporarily or permanently, taking with the dishonest intention of causing loss, either temporarily or permanently, to the other and causing wrongful loss.

The gist of the decision was that even temporary dispossession with a dishonest intention to cause loss to other amounts to theft.

Section 379 IPC – Punishment for Theft

Anyone accounted for theft under Section 378 IPC is penalized and punished for under this section. The section provides as:

“Punishment for theft—Whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Thus, the offence of theft is:

  • Cognizable
  • Non bailable
  • Can be tried by any magistrate
  • Awarded punishment as to imprisonment for 3 years or fine or both.

Section 383 IPC – Extortion

In literal sense, extortion means illegal practice of obtaining someone’s property by using force or by means of threat. Section 383 IPC explicitly defines extortion and its constituents as:

“Whoever intentionally puts any person in fear of any injury to that person, or to any other, and thereby dishon­estly induces the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security, or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security, commits “extortion”.”

The offence of “extortion” under Indian Law is equivalent to “blackmail” under the English Law. The offence of extortion takes somewhat a middle place between theft and robbery, it constitutes of an act with dishonestly putting someone in fear to induce delivery of his property.

Illustration: Mr. A threatens Mr. X that he would burn down X’s house if he did not give his new car to him. This amounts to offence of extortion.

Essential Ingredients of Extortion

The chief essentials of the offence of extortion can be stated as follows:

  • Putting any person in fear of injury
  • Dishonest inducement
  • Delivery of property or valuable security by the person in fear to any person.

In the leading case of State of Karnataka v Basavegodwa[2] where the wife accused her husband for taking her into a forest and threating to kill her there unless she removed her ornaments and later on assaulting her after receiving the ornaments. The court decided that ornaments constitute to be personal property of the wife and divesting the wife of these against her wishes or without her consent amounts to a criminal offence.

The extortion of the ornaments from her under threat makes the husband liable of the offence of extortion and he should be accounted for extortion under the threat of the death viz Section 386 IPC.

Section 384 IPC – Punishment for Extortion

Section 384 IPC provides for the punishment for the offence of extortion as:

“Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Difference between Extortion and Theft

Consent The offence involves taking wrongful consent of the owner of the property. The offence does not involves taking any type of consent from the owner of the property.
Property Extortion can be committed against movable as well as immovable property. Only movable property is subject to theft.
Force There is element of force and the property is obtained by putting the person in fear of injury. There is no element of force involved
Delivery of Property The property is delivered to the offender. The property is taken away by the offender.

Section 390 IPC – Robbery

The offence of robbery can be said to be aggravated form of either theft or extortion or both because more harm to the victim, especially physical harm. In every offence of robbery there are either the elements of theft or the elements of extortion. Section 390 IPC provides and explains the offence of robbery as:

“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 the 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.”

As per Section 390 IPC robbery can be understood in the two kinds of situations:

  • when theft is robbery and
  • when extortion is robbery.

When theft is robbery

According to Section 390 IPC, ‘theft’ is robbery when following elements are present:

  • Presence of imminent fear or violence indicating the end towards death, hurt or wrongful restraint. The violence may be caused either before, during or after committing theft and it must be caused for the end of committing of theft, or in committing theft.
  • The force must be used for the purpose of carrying away the property only. If force is used for any other purpose, then the theft shall not be accounted as robbery. Like if the persons use force to escape from being caught and not to take away the property then it will be case of theft and not robbery.
  • The hurt caused must be voluntarily caused by the offender. Accidental cause of hurt due to use of force by offender will not convert theft into robbery.

When extortion is robbery

According to Section 390 IPC, ‘extortion’ amounts to ‘robbery’ when:

  • When the offender is present before the person and puts him or any other person in the fear of instant death/hurt/wrongful restraint.
  • And due to inducement, the person delivers up the thing extorted

In nutshell section 390 IPC can be summarized as:

Robbery = [theft + violence or fear of instant violence]


[ extortion+ presence of offender+ fear of instant violence+ immediate delivery]

The element of instant harm is vital to the offence of robbery and makes it different from theft and extortion.

Illustration: A person on road stops you and points gun on your head and asks to give away all the valuable things that you have right away. The person is said to have committed the offence of robbery.

Section 392 IPC – Punishment for Robbery

Section 392 IPC, provides punishment for the offence of robbery as:

“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 highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years.”

Thus, the offence of robbery is:

  • Cognizable
  • Non bailable
  • Can be tried by magistrate of first class
  • Awarded punishment as to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and fine. And if committed on highway between sunset and sunrise then with rigorous imprisonment for 14 years and fine.

Section 391 IPC – Dacoity

Dacoity can be said to be aggravated form of robbery. In simple words, it can be defined as an offence whereby five or more persons together with a shared intention commits or attempt to commit robbery. Even a person presents during the act or aiding such commission or attempt shall be held liable for the offence of dacoity.

Section 391 IPC explains dacoity as:

“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, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit “dacoity”.”

The word conjointly means united or concerted action of persons participating in same transaction. And the presence of shared common intention is a vital element in the offence of robbery.

The offence of dacoity can be classified into four stages:

  • Assembling for the purpose of committing dacoity (Section 432)
  • Preparation to commit dacoity (Section 399)
  • Attempt
  • Actual commission

It is to be kept in mind that all the four stages of dacoity are punishable.

Illustration: Six people decide to loot a bank and they arrange all the weapons as to guns and hockey sticks and assemble on the decided date, one person stands at the main gate of the bank to stop anyone from entering and the rest go inside, one of them gets scared inside and just stands ideal in a corner and rest four get all the money on gun point. All the six shall be convicted for the offence of dacoity.

Section 395 IPC – Punishment for Dacoity

Section 395 IPC provides for punishment for dacoity as:

“Whoever commits dacoity shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with rigorous impris­onment for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Difference between Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity

In all these offences the line of similarity is that these are offences against the property and involves taking away the property without the owner’s consent. But considering the above listed sections of IPC we can see that there are major differences when it comes to considering the constituents of each of these offences and these differences can be listed as:

  • Consent: In theft property is taken away without any consent of the owner, in extortion property is taken away by obtaining wrongful consent, in offences of robbery and dacoity there is either no consent or consent is obtained wrongfully.
  • Property: With regard to nature of property, theft can only be committed against a movable property whereas extortion, robbery or dacoity can be committed against both movable and immovable property.
  • Use of force: Theft does not involve any kind of inducement or use of force, but force may be used in robbery or dacoity when in form of extortion or theft.
  • Number of persons involved: Theft, robbery and extortion can be committed by one person but for dacoity at least five persons must be involved.

It may be noted that extortion is aggravated form of theft, robbery is aggravated form of theft or extortion as it involves either theft or extortion, and dacoity is aggravated form of robbery and therefore includes theft and extortion also.


To a layman all the offences viz theft, extortion, robbery and dacoity may appear as loss of property. But in eyes of law, all these offences are not same though classified under the same head of offences against property, but these offences have been broadly divided and also each has been awarded with different set of punishments.

This distinction is vital because these offences constitute different gravity of harm and loss inflicted to a person and basis of the aggravated damages caused by each of these offences these have been punished with more severe punishments.

  1. Pyare Lal Bhargava v State of Rajasthan, AIR 1963 SC 1049
  2. State of Karnataka v Basavegodwa (1997) Cr.L.J. 4386 (Karnt),


Related Post