Someone is threatening to kill me if I don’t pay them money.What do I do?

If someone is threatening to kill you in exchange for money, this is an act of extortion1 under the law. Extortion is when someone intentionally threatens you with any injury or makes you fear them to get any:

  • Valuable security, like money, jewellery etc.
  • Anything that can be converted into a valuable security by signing or sealing it, like a promissory note or a bond.

A person committing the crime of extortion may be punished2 with jail time up to 3 years or a fine or both. You should file a complaint immediately to stop this person from extorting any money from you.

  1. Section 383, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 384, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

Do I have the right to defend myself against thieves?

You have a right to defend yourself1 , any other person2, and your property, or that of any other person2. if you face violence. However, the following conditions need to be satisfied, or you may be punished:

  • There is a reasonable belief that you will be injured3
  • The defence you use should be in ratio with the injury being inflicted on you4. For example, if someone is going to punch you, you cannot shoot him. 

 

Your right to defence of body can include causing death in the following cases5:

  • You reasonably believe that death may occur
  • You reasonably believe that grievous hurt may occur
  • The assault is occuring with an intention to rape or satisfy unnatural lust
  • The assault is occurring with an intention of kidnapping
  • The assault is occurring with an intention confine a person in a way that he will not be able to reach out to public authorities
  • The assault is occurring with an intention throw acid which may cause grievous hurt 

 

Your right to defence of property includes causing death in the following cases6:

  • Robbery
  • House-breaking during night
  • Mischief in relation to burning a building, tent, etc. which is used for the purposes of living by humans or used to store property in
  • Theft, mischief or trespass which may make you believe that death/grievous hurt may result
  1. Section 96, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 97, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  3. Arjun v. State of Maharashtra[]
  4. Section 99, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  5. Section 100, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  6. Section 103, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

What is the difference between theft, robbery and dacoity?

Theft, robbery and dacoity are three types of crimes under the law on crimes known as the Indian Penal Code, 18601.

Theft is when someone steals a movable property out of your possession with the intention of stealing it from you. For example, if Shikar steals five hundred rupees from your wallet when you were not in the room, then it is an act of theft.

Robbery is an aggravated form of theft, so if someone attempts or causes any hurt, wrongful restraint or death in order to commit an act of theft, it is known as robbery. For example, if Shikar comes to your house, beats you up and then steals five hundred rupees from your wallet, it is an act of robbery.

Dacoity is a crime when 5 or more people commit or attempt to or aid someone to commit an act of robbery together. For example, if Shikhar and his 4 friends come to your house and beat you up to steal your money and jewellery, then it is an act of dacoity. 

The punishment for these crimes are also different. If you commit theft2 you may be punished with jail time up to 3 years or a fine or both. If you commit robbery3 you may be punished with jail time up to 10 years or a fine or both. If the robbery3 is committed on the highway between sunrise and sunset then the jail time may be up to 14 years. If you commit dacoity4 then you may be punished with jail time which may be for life and a fine.

  1. Sections 378, 390 and 391, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 379, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  3. Section 392, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  4. Section 395, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

I was traveling in my car when a gang of people came and attacked my car. They stole all my jewellery and money. What should I do?

You should immediately complain to the police as this is a crime of dacoity1. Dacoity is a crime when 5 or more people commit or attempt to or aid someone to commit an act of robbery together. Stopping your car on the road and stealing your personal items like jewellery, money etc. is a crime of dacoity2. The persons committing this crime of dacoity may be punished with jail time which may be for life and a fine.

  1. Section 391, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 395, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

My own Chartered Accountant has been stealing from my account. What should I do?

You should immediately complain to the police as this is a crime known as ‘criminal breach of trust’. If someone that you trust with your property, which may include your money, bank accounts etc. dishonestly1:

  • Misappropriates it or uses it as his own property, like your chartered accountant accessing money through your account without letting you know.
  • Disposes or uses that property knowing that he or she is breaking the law or a contract, like your chartered accountant transferring money away from your account and forging your account books to make it seem like it was your expenditure.

Makes any other person use or dispose of this property knowing that is it illegal, like your chartered accountant asking his employees to steal money from their clients etc. is committing an illegal act. A person committing this crime may be punished with jail time up to 3 years or a fine or both.1

  1. Section 405, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]

Nominee Vs Legal Heirs in absence of Will

No, a nominee is not necessarily the beneficiary of a deceased/dead person’s accounts. The nominee is the person who has the right to operate the account after the person’s death. The nominee is like a trustee who will look after a person’s financial accounts after the person’s death. The nominee may not be the heir of the assets, but has the responsibility to hold the assets and transfer them to the deceased person’s legal heirs. In case the deceased person has not made a will, the legal beneficiaries will be decided as per succession laws.1

  1. Saving instruments: Nominees v. Beneficiaries, Bank Bazaar, accessed at https://blog.bankbazaar.com/saving-instruments-nominees-vs-beneficiaries/[]

What is Theft?

Theft is when someone takes away your property without your consent. Theft is a crime in India and the person committing theft is punished with jail time of up to 3 years and/or a fine.1 Theft is a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

It is theft when2:

You have a dishonest intention to take away property

There is an intention to take away property dishonestly i.e. one intended to cause illegal gains to oneself while causing someone else illegal losses3. For example, if Shyam breaks into Ram’s house and steals his money with the intention to cause illegal gains to himself while causing Ram illegal losses.

You have not taken consent to move the property

The property has been taken away without consent3. For example, if Ram’s dog is chained up in his yard, and Shyam takes it away without asking Ram. However, there are certain conditions in place, such as:

  • The consent can be given by the person who owns the property, or by any other person who has authority over that property
  • The consent can be explicit or implicit

You move property 

It is theft when some movable property i.e. it is tangible and is not attached to the earth, has been moved. Some examples are:

  • Any property has been detached from the earth. For example, one steals pipe fittings which were connected to a borewell.
  • Some obstacles have been removed which allowed removing some property. For example, if a bicycle’s lock is removed and the bicycle is taken away.
  • An animal has been used to remove some property. For example, if a donkey is attached to a cart of goods, and to steal those goods, the donkey is taken away.
  • It involves the actual act of taking away property4.

Theft is not just a crime if personal items are stolen. Many other forms of theft are there and the law punishes people who commit theft based on:

  • The item stolen
  • The situation of theft
  • The person who commits theft.
  1. Section 379, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 378, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  3. K.N. Mehra v. State of Rajasthan (1957) SCR 623.[][]
  4. State of Maharashtra v. Vishwanath Tukuram Umale & Ors., (1979) 4 SCC 23.[]

Types of Theft

Theft is not just a crime if personal items are stolen. Many other forms of theft are there and the law punishes people who commit theft based on the situation as well as depending on who they are. Some examples of the different types of theft are given below:

Theft of Personal Items

Sometimes, your personal items like your phone, expensive gadgets, bag, wallet, etc. might be stolen. This is a crime under the law1, and the thief can be punished with jail time of up to 3 years and/or a fine2.

Further, in case other factors are at play during the theft, such as a house break-in, then different punishments will apply.

If any of your personal items have been stolen, read here to understand the steps/options you can take to complain.

  1. Section 378, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 379, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]