As discussed earlier, criminal law is a branch of public law and the Indian Penal Code lays down the acts and omission that amount to a crime. However, it is important to note that the term crime has nowhere been defined in the Indian Penal Code. Thus, making it a debatable question.
Best criminal advocates in Delhi and the top Supreme Court lawyers in India define crime as an act or omission which is contrary to any law for the time being in force which is prejudice to the community at large and for which a punishment can be imposed through judicial proceedings. Such judicial proceedings are initiated in the name of the state and not in the name of the victim of the crime.
Advocates of Supreme Court of India while elaborating the essentials of a crime support the view that crime consists of two elements:
- Actus reus: physical aspect of the crime
- Mensrea: mental aspect of crime
Crimes are of various types and under this article, we shall explain in detail dishonest misappropriation of property which is one of the most common offence committed against the property.
Dishonest misappropriation of property has been defined under section 403 of the India Penal Code. The Code lays down a very comprehensive definition of dishonest misappropriation and states that anyone who dishonestly misappropriates or converts any movable property to his own use then such a person has committed an offence of dishonest misappropriation of property.
Dishonest misappropriation of property has been made punishable with an imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both fine and imprisonment.
The explanation to the section states that if a person finds any property which is not in possession of anyone and thereafter he takes such property for the purpose of protecting the property in order to restore it to the owner then such a person will not be guilty of dishonest misappropriation. However, if he appropriates the property to his own use when he has the means to discover the owner then he is guilty of committing the offence of dishonest misappropriation.
Dishonest misappropriation of property is also referred to as criminal misappropriation of property. The offence of criminal misappropriation consists in misappropriating dishonestly any movable property or converting any movable property to the own use of the offender.
The term misappropriation simply means improperly setting part for one’s use to the exclusion of the owner. While as the term converts used in the section language means appropriation and dealing with the property of another without the right to do the same as if it is his own property.
A person accused of an offence of criminal misappropriation is not guilty if he merely possesses the property. But once the property is appropriated or converted to his own use by the accused then he shall be guilty of having committed the offence. In order to attract criminal misappropriation of property, it is not necessary that the property must have misappropriated permanently. Even if the property is misappropriated temporarily for a time being then also it would amount to the commission of criminal/dishonest misappropriation of property.
However mere misappropriation of the property does not render one liable under section 403 of the Indian Penal code it is necessary that the property must have been misappropriated dishonestly.
The Code also talks about criminal misappropriation of the property of a deceased person under section 404 of the Indian Penal Code. This section deals with criminal misappropriation which is committed against the property of a deceased before the possession of such a property is taken by the legal representatives of the deceased. This is often regarded as an aggravated form of section 403 of the Indian Penal Code.