Criminal Law Videos - IPC Section 378 (Definition of theft)

IPC Section 378 defines the offence of theft. It says that whoever, with the intention of taking dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any person without the consent of that person, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft. There are five explanations attached to this section the first of which states that as long as a thing is attached to the earth, it is not a movable property and is, therefore, not the subject of theft; but as soon as it is severed from the earth, it becomes capable of being the subject of theft.

The second explanation says that a moving effected by the same act which effects the severance may be a theft. The third explanation explains that a person is said to cause a thing to move who either actually moves it, or who moves it by removing an obstacle which prevented it from moving, or who moves it by separating it from any other thing. The fourth explanation states that a person who causes an animal to move by any means is said to move that animal and to move everything which, in consequence of the motion so caused, is moved by that animal. The fifth explanation explains that the consent mentioned in the definition may be express or implied, and the possessor of the property may himself give it, or any other person who has express or implied authority for that purpose, may also give it. It is clear from the definition that there are following five essential elements of theft:

  1. The intention on the part of the offender must be to take the property dishonestly,
  2. The property of which theft is committed must be movable,
  3. The property must be in the possession of some person,
  4. The property must be taken without the consent of its possessor, and
  5. The property must be moved in order to such taking.
The intention on the part of the offender must be to take the property dishonestly. The expression ‘dishonestly’ has been defined under section 24 of the Code according to which whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing dishonestly. ‘Wrongful gain’ and ‘wrongful loss’ have been defined under section 23 of the Code which states that ‘wrongful gain’ is gain by unlawful means of property to which the person gaining is not legally entitled and ‘wrongful loss’ is the loss by unlawful means of property to which the person losing it is legally entitled.