Criminal misappropriation of property, IPC
Criminal misappropriation of property – IPC.

Chapter 17 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, from sections 378 to 462, provides for the offences against property. One of such offences against property is criminal misappropriation of property.

Criminal refers to something wrong or crime or something prohibited by law, whereas misappropriate refers to the unfair taking of another person’s belongings for own use. Thus, criminal misappropriation is the dishonest conversion of property for own use.

Criminal misappropriation of property is also known as dishonest misappropriation of property.

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Criminal Misappropriation of Property – Explained

Section 403 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of criminal misappropriation of property. It provides that whenever a person with malicious intention or dishonest intention misappropriates or converts any movable property for his own use, he is said to commit the offence of criminal misappropriation of property.

To understand the meaning of criminal misappropriation of property clearly, let us look at the meaning of a few essential words.

  • Malicious refers to having a wrong intention or an intention to cause harm.
  • Dishonest: The word “dishonestly” is defined under section 24 of IPC, which means something which is done with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another.

Explanation 1: Dishonest misappropriation of property can be of a temporary or permanent nature. Therefore, even if a person commits dishonest misappropriation of property only once, it amounts to the same offence as under section 403 of the Indian Penal Code.

Explanation 2: It provides the circumstances when a finder of goods is guilty of dishonest misappropriation of property and when not.

When the finder of goods is guilty of dishonest misappropriation of property:

  • If the finder of goods misappropriates the property for his own use, even after knowing or having any means to discover the owner, but does not make any efforts to find the true owner; in such a case, the finder of goods is liable for dishonest misappropriation of property.

When the finder of goods is not guilty of dishonest misappropriation of property:

  • If the finder of goods had put all the reasonable efforts to find the true owner of the goods but was unable to find or if the owner abandoned the property. In this situation, the finder of goods is not liable for dishonest misappropriation of property.

Example of Criminal Misappropriation of Property

Arjun takes property belonging to Riya out of Riya’s possession in good faith, believing that, at the time when he takes the property, it belongs to himself. Here Arjun is not guilty of theft. But suppose Arjun, even after discovering his mistake, that such property belongs to Riya, dishonestly misappropriates the property for his own use; in that case, he would be guilty of an offence under section 403 of IPC, which is dishonest misappropriation of property.

Essentials of Dishonest Misappropriation of Property

These are the essentials of dishonest misappropriation of property:

  1. There must be a movable property.
  2. There should be the presence of dishonest intention.
  3. The person must misappropriate or convert the property to his own use.

Punishment for Criminal Misappropriation of Property

Section 403 of the Indian Penal Code also provides the punishment for dishonest misappropriation of property. Therefore, the person who commits the offence of dishonest misappropriation of property will be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to two years or with a fine or with both.

Case Law Related to Criminal Misappropriation of Property

State of Madhya Pradesh vs Pramod Mategaonkar (1964): In this case, the court held that misappropriation could be temporary or permanent, and no endorsement is required to constitute this offence.

Ramaswamy Nadar vs the State of Madras (1957): In this case, the Supreme Court held that the words ‘converts to his own use‘ under section 403 IPC denote that the accused has used the property in derogation of the rights of the owner of the property.

The Aggravated Form of Criminal Misappropriation of Property

Section 404 of the Indian Penal Code provides for the aggravated form of dishonest misappropriation of property possessed by deceased person at the time of his death.

Section 404 IPC says that whoever commits dishonest misappropriation of such property which is in possession of a deceased person (the person who is dead) at the time of person’s death, such person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 404 of IPC further provides that if dishonest misappropriation of property is done by the person who was employed as a servant or clerk of the deceased person, he shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine. The reason for more severe punishment in the case of a clerk or servant is because they have a fiduciary or trust-based relationship with their employer.

Distinction Between Theft and Criminal Misappropriation

Definition:

Intention:

  • Theft: The intention in theft is always dishonest from the beginning of the act.
  • Criminal misappropriation: The initial intention may be innocent and lawful, but dishonest intention develops subsequently.

Moving of property:

  • Theft: The moving of property is itself an offence.
  • Criminal misappropriation: The mere moving of property does not amount to an offence of criminal misappropriation. It is necessary that the property is dishonestly converted to own use.

Punishment:

  • Theft: Punishment is provided under section 379 of IPC. It is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both.
  • Criminal misappropriation: Punishment is provided under section 403 of IPC. It is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

Read Next:
1. Can a Person Commit Theft of His Own Property?
2. 5 Elements of Theft, with Punishment and Case Law
3. 4 Stages of Crime Under the Indian Penal Code

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Ankita Soni is pursuing B.A.LL.B. (3rd year) from Amity University, Madhya Pradesh. She is a passionate law student and explores every opportunity. Ankita is good at legal research and manages her time efficiently.
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