Dacoity (Section 391 of IPC)

According to the dictionary of oxford, dacoity means an act of violent robbery which is committed by an armed gang. There is only one factor which differentiates dacoity from robbery and that is the number of offenders. One person can also commit a robbery and more than 1 person can also commit robbery. But when 5 or more than 5 commit a robbery it is termed as dacoity.

Section 391 of the Indian Penal Code defines robbery. It says that when 5 or more than 5 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”.

Essential Ingredients

In order to commit dacoity, there are 3 essentials which must be there. These essentials are:

There should be at least five or more than five persons;

They should conjointly commit or attempt to commit dacoity;

They should have dishonest intention.

Sentence for Dacoity

Punishment for dacoity is defined under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section says that a person who commits dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which can be extended to ten years, and shall also be liable to pay the fine. This offence is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable in nature.

The State vs Sadhu Singh and Ors in this case, four and one kurda Singh was involved in committing a dacoity. They all were armed with deadly weapons such as rifles and pistols. They committed a robbery at the house of gharsiram. They injured Gharsiram, jugalkishore, Sandal and Jugalkisore. The dacoits, in this case, tried to take a wristwatch and a shawl of one person but as they were villagers the dacoits were not able to take anything with them. When dacoits started running from the villagers they received a hot chase from them and in return dacoits shot a fire. As a result, dharma, one of the villagers died but the villages captured one of the dacoits. In this case, the dacoits were charged under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code.
Aggravated form of Dacoity

Aggravated form of dacoity is defined under Section 396 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under  Section 396 aggravated form is defined as dacoity with murder. It says that if anyone of five or more than five persons, who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death and shall also be liable to fine.

The ingredients of Section 396 are:

The offence of dacoity must be committed with the joint act of the accused persons;

Murder must be committed in course of the commission of the dacoity.

If anyone of the five or more persons who are committing robbery commit murder while committing dacoity then, every one of them will held liable for murder even if some of them did not participate in committing the murder. Under Section 396 of the IPC, it is not necessary to prove whether the murder was committed by a single person or it was committed by all of them. It is also not necessary to prove the common intention. The prosecution is only required to prove that the murder was committed while committing the dacoity. If the prosecution successfully proves that the murder was committed while committing dacoity, then all of the members will be punished under Section 396 of the IPC.

If the offenders are running and while chasing them if one of the dacoits kill someone then the other members of the gang can not be held guilty under Section 396 of the IPC. In one of the landmark case laws i.e. Laliya v state of Rajasthan it was observed that whether the murder is a part of dacoity or not, it totally depends on the circumstances of that time.

The court decided that the attention has to be paid on these points before coming to a conclusion. These points are:

Whether the dacoits retreated or not and the murder was committed while retreating or not?

What is the time interval between the attempt of murder and dacoity?

What is the distance between the places where they attempt to murder and attempt to dacoity was committed?

In one of the cases i.e. in Shyam Behari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the dacoit killed one of the victims, who had caught the robber’s associate in an attempt to commit dacoit. The robber was convicted under Section 396 of IPC because any murder committed by the dacoits during their fight would be treated as murder.

Offences Connected with Dacoity

Before committing any offence intention plays a very important role in it. Under criminal law, the intention is known by Mens Rea. Mens rea means guilty of Mind. For every criminal offence, there should be Mens rea on the part of the offender. If put in other words it means that there has to be intention to commit a crime. The term “Intention”  has not explicitly defined under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 But under IPC Section 34 of it deals with common intention.

Section 34 of IPC defines acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. This section says that “when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, every such person is liable for the act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.”

This section requires a particular criminal intention or knowledge and the act should be committed by more than one person. Everyone who joins the act with the knowledge of the consequences, all of them should be made liable under this section.

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