This case is analyzed by Sujata Porwal, third year BA LLB (Hons.) student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. 

Case Number

Review Petition (Crl.) Nos. 446-447 of 2019 in Criminal Appeal Nos. 1174-1175 of 2019

Equivalent Citation

1963 AIR 1094, 1963 SCR Supl. (1) 689 

Bench

K. Subbarao, J.

Decided on

22nd October, 1962

Relevant Act/ Section

  1. Constitution of India – Article 136
  2. Indian Evidence Act, 1872 – Section 24
  3. Indian Evidence Act, 1872 – Section 3
  4. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 109
  5. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 23
  6. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 24
  7. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 378
  8. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 379
  9. Indian Penal Code 1860, (IPC) – Section 465

Brief Facts and Procedural History

The appellant was a Superintendent in the Chief Engineer’s office who was charged under Section 379 of IPC. He was accused of removing a file from the Chief Engineer’s office to deliver it to a friend (co-accused). The co-accused substituted certain documents and returned the file the next day. 

Later, upon being threatened by the Chief Engineer, he gave a confession that was later retracted. The petitioner challenged the order of the Hon’ble court that convicted the accused, but set aside the charges against the co-accused. 

Issues before the Court

  1. Whether Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act can be interpreted in order to extend its scope?
  2. Whether the act of taking something out of the possession of a person and returning it later would constitute as ‘theft’ under Section 379 of IPC?

Ratio of the Case

The hon’ble court concluded that theft can be temporary as well as permanent in nature. The court expanded the scope of the definition of theft as mentioned in the existing acts by stating that temporary or permanent unlawful possession of any movable property that causes material or immaterial wrongful loss shall be considered as theft. 

The scope of opinion in matters of induced or coerced confessions under S. 24 of Evidence Act was expanded to introduce flexibility in deciding upon such matters.

Decision of the Court

The court chose a different path to adjudge the matter by laying down points of distinction over the conclusion of facts. The court believed that the officer was working in the capacity of an officer and not officer-in-charge. Thus, he cannot be held to be the one in legal possession of the file. 

Besides, the definition nowhere expresses that the dispossession must be permanent in nature in order to constitute theft and hence the bench held that the conditions pre-requisite for the crime of theft are fulfilled in the present case. The Hon’ble judges further disregarded the arguments of the petitioner thereby holding that wrongful loss can constitute ‘the loss of any property that is lost by an unlawful means to which the person at loss is legally entitled to’.

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