Law has made every crime committed listed and subjected to punishment under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The crime constitutes of two major elements actus reus and mens rea. Mischief like another crime consists of actus reus which signifies the guilty intention to commit the crime and mens rea which is the act done to bring the intention into being.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 in its Section 425 has aptly defined ‘Mischief’ as- ‘Whoever with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person, causes destruction to any property, or any such change in any property or in the situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously, commits “mischief”’.
The aforementioned definition takes its insight from the legal maxim sic utretuoleadas which means ‘use your own property in such a manner as not to injure that of another’. The law of mischief under the IPC came into enforcement with the sole purpose to protect the damage committed to property against any person or public. The definition as stated in the Indian Penal Code makes it clear that there are three major elements to be present to constitute the crime of ‘mischief’:
- There should be clear intention to cause or knowing that the person is likely to cause wrongful damage to a person or to public.
- There should be destruction caused to any property or any change caused or in the situation thereof; and
- The change made should diminish or destroy the value of the property or affect it injuriously.
In short, to make a person liable for the crime of mischief, there should be an intention to cause damage/destruction to the property and the person causing g such damage should have the knowledge that his actions would lead to such damage. This damage/destruction to the property should be against a person or public.
The punishment as prescribed for the crime of mischief has been stated in Section 426 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which states that if mischief is committed than imprisonment would be awarded which may move to a period of 3 months or with fine or with both imprisonment and fine. The nature of the offence of this crime is non-cognizable, bailable, compoundable and triable by any magistrate. The aggravated forms of mischief have been listed from Section 427 to Section 440 of the IPC. There is a different set of punishment for each of such punishment:
|Section 427||Damage to the amount of fifty rupees||Imprisonment of either description of a term with a maximum of two years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 428||Killing or maiming of animals of the value of ten rupees||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 429||Killing or maiming of animals of the value of fifty rupees||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 430||Injury to work of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water.||Imprisonment may extend for a period of 5 years, fine or both as the court may deem fit.|
|Section 431||Injury to the public road, bridge, river or channel||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 432||Inundation or obstruction to public drainage attended with damage||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 433||Destroying, moving or rendering less useful a light-house or sea-mark||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to a maximum period of 7 years, or with fine, or with both.|
|Section 434||Destroying or moving, etc., a land-mark fixed by public authority||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to a year, or with fine, or with both.|
OFFENCES OF ARSON:-
The Indian Penal Code has prescribed a different set of punishments if mischief is caused by fire. Section 435 to 438 specifically deals with the situations where damage/ destruction to the property is caused by fire. These sections are collectively known as offences of Arson.
|Section 435||Fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage.||Imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.|
|Section 436||Fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy the house.||The seriousness of the offence is taken into consideration and depending on which punishment of life imprisonment, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and fine as the court may deem fit.|
|Section 437||Intent to destroy or make unsafe a deckled vessel or one of twenty tons burden.||Imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 10 years and fine.|
|Section 438||Intent to destroy or make unsafe a deckled vessel of burden more than twenty tons.||Life imprisonment or description of term extending up to 10 years and fine.|
|Section 439||Intentionally running vessel aground or ashore to commit theft||Imprisonment for a term as the court may deem fit or maximum extending up to ten years, and fine.|
|Section 440||Mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt.||Imprisonment for a description of a term which may extend up to five years and a fine.|
The law makes it clear in the case Nagendranath Roy v. Dr Bijoy Kumar Das, that acts which are negligent or accidental do not make mischief punishable. Only the acts which are intentionally done to cause damage to the property are mischief and are punishable.
As society progresses, the law alters it to suit the contemporary society and so is the case with crimes and their punishment. The court not only takes into consideration the contemporary demand of the society but also the gravity of the damage committed and then awards the punishment to the person who commits the crime. The quantitative damage caused by the mischief is a crucial factor in deciding the punishment subjected to the crime.
Sources: http://lawtimesjournal.in  Indian Oil Corporation vs. NEPC India Ltd. and Ors AIR 2006 SC 2780  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Nagendranath Roy v. Dr Bijoy Kumar Das (1992) CrLJ 1871 (Ori)
This blog is written by Jaya Singh, Amity University.
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