Robbery (Section 390 of IPC)

In modern American and English law, the crime of robbery is generally defined by the statute. There are two types of definitions which are primarily used. The first which is closely derived from the older English common law and the second one is which is Recommended by the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code. The terms like robbery, theft and extortion are very similar to each other and they are often used interchangeably on a daily basis. But the legal implication of all the three terms is different. The Indian penal code has defined these terms very clearly. It has identified these as distinct crimes. Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code has defined robbery and has defined theft and extortion in relation to robbery. Before analyzing or understanding Section 390, first theft and extortion need to be understood separately.


Theft has been defined under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It says “ whoever intends to take dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent and moves it, he/she is said to have committed a theft.”

For example: If A is employed by B and entrusted by C with the care of D’s cash, dishonestly runs away with that cash, without D’s consent. Then A has committed theft.

Essentials of theft

The essentials of theft are:

There has to be a dishonest intention to take the property away.

The property should not be attached to the earth. It should be movable property. As soon as the property is separated from the earth, it is capable of becoming the subject of theft. For example, if  A cuts down a tree on B’s ground, with the intention of dishonestly taking the tree out of B’s possession without B’s consent. Then as soon as separates the tree, he commits theft.

The property must be taken out of the possession of another. A thing which is in the possession of nobody cannot be the subject of theft.

The most important thing is that the property must be taken away without consent.

There should be physical movement of the property, however, it is not important that it should be moved directly. For example, if someone cuts the string which is tied to the necklace owing to which the necklace falls, it would be held that he or she has caused sufficient movement of the property as required for it to amount to theft.

Punishment for theft

The punishment for theft is defined under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It says that a person who commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 years or with fine or with both.

Extortion is defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section says that any person who intentionally puts another person in fear of injury and dishonestly induces him or her to deliver any valuable property or anything signed which can be converted into valuable security is said to have committed extortion.

For example, if D threatens A that he will keep A’s child in wrongful confinement and will kill him unless A delivers to him a sum of Rupees one lakh. Then D has committed extortion.

Essentials of extortion

The essentials of extortion are:

The person committing the offence should intentionally put the victim in fear of injury. The fear of injury must be to such an extent that it is capable of unsettling the mind of the victim and forcing him to give his property, as in the above-stated example.

The person committing the offence should dishonestly induce the victim so to put in fear to part with his (the victim’s) property.

Essential Ingredients of Robbery

Section 390 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 says that in all robbery there is either extortion or theft. The Black law’s dictionary defines robbery as the felonious act of taking the personal property of another from a person or immediate presence against his will accomplished by using force and fear, with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the thing.

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