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Section 379 IPC

Section 379- Punishment for theft

Section 379 Indian Penal Code states that “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."

Section 378 defines the offence of Theft, whereas, section 379 IPC  prescribes punishment for theft. Theft, as defined under section 378 is the dishonest removal and taking of movable property out of the possession of any person without his consent. It is an offence against possession and not against ownership.

In order to establish the offence under Sec 379 IPC, there are five explanations attached to section 378 to explain when an act amounts to theft.

To constitute the offence of theft, the following ingredients are required:

  • The accused must have a dishonest intention to take the property.

  • The property must be moveable

  • The property must be taken out of the possession of another person, resulting in wrongful gain by one and wrongful loss to another;

  • The property must be moved in order to such taking, which results in obtaining property by deception; and

  • Taking must be without that person’s consent ( either express or implied).


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For the purpose of this section, certain examples are also there. Theft of electricity is not a theft of movable property within the ambit of section 378 of the IPC. However, it is punishable under section 135 of the Electricity Act 2003 (pdf). Whereas, on the other hand, cooking gas or water passing through the pipeline can be a subject of theft, when the accused fixed a pipe in the main line just before the meter, to avoid payment. Idols from temples, paintings from museums and other public or private places are subject to theft.

The human body, whether living or dead (except mummified or dead bodies preserved in scientific institutions or medical colleges), is not subject to theft.

For committing the offence of theft, Intention here plays a major role. For example- if a person takes moveable property out of another person’s possession without his consent, the person is said to commit the offence of theft and shall be liable for punishment under the purview of sec. 379 Indian Penal Code.

The second important thing in the cases of theft is that the property stolen must be a movable property. Theft is complete when a thing is moved out of a person’s possession without his consent. 
Also, theft and mischief are two different concepts. The essential difference between a theft and mischief is that when a person commits mischief, he only causes loss to another but does not gain anything for himself. Whereas, in theft, a person makes a dishonest gain of property at the expense of the victim.

For a better understanding of IPC 379 and mischief, we can take the example as-  Person X, while traveling on bus tears the seat covers when the conductor demanded fare. Here person X is guilty of committing mischief. The reason being paying for the bus fare was the implied consent of the person when he boarded the bus. Not paying the fare and damaging property that causes loss to another person makes the person liable for committing mischief and not theft.


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