Robbery and Dacoity: Concept, Explanation and Aggravated Forms

By | May 9, 2020
Robbery and Dacoity: Concept

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The penal code deals with the offence of robbery and dacoity under the category of ‘Of Robbery and Dacoity’[1] under the head ‘Of Offences Against Property’ under the Indian Penal Code.[2]

What is Robbery? What is Dacoity? Are they the same or different from each other? All these are answered in this present article. The article explains what robbery is and what dacoity is. The essentials are mentioned of each offence and further elaborately explained in the article. Further, the punishment for each offence is mentioned.

There is a brief explanation as to what are the aggravated forms of the offences robbery and dacoity. If there is a gang of robbers or dacoits then what is the punishment and requirements for conviction is also thrown light upon. Apart from all these, there are certain offences related to robbery or dacoity and the same is mentioned along with the short explanation about the section.

I. Robbery

The definition of robbery is given under section 390.[3] The definition actually explains what act of theft or extortion is known as robbery.

390 Robbery—In all robbery, there is either theft or extortion

 When theft is robbery—Theft is “robbery” if, in order to the committing of the theft, or in committing the theft, or in carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft, the offender, for that end voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death or hurt or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint

When extortion is robbery—Extortion is “robbery” if the offender, at the time of committing the extortion, is in the presence of the person put in fear, and commits the extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint to that person or to some other person, and, by so putting in fear, induces the person so put in fear then and there to deliver up the thing extorted

Explanation—The offender is said to be present if he is sufficiently near to put the other person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint”

Essentials

The robbery is explained to be an aggravated form of already existing offences i.e., theft and extortion. Hence the first and foremost essential is to prove that theft or extortion has taken place, without which there is no commission of a robbery. And the essentials for theft and extortion also have to be met here. For this, the respective sections have to be considered. Which again relies upon dishonesty. So, the essential element of dishonesty must be present in robbery too.

  1. Prove that “there is either theft or extortion committed”.
  2. While committing theft, the offender must, for that end, voluntarily cause or attempt to cause- a. “Death” or; b. “Hurt” or; c. “Wrongful Restraint” or; d. “Fear of instant death or of instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint”
  3. While committing extortion, the offender must put the person/victim or some other person in-
  1. “Fear of instant death or of instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint” and;
  2. “By putting in fear, induces the victim who is put in fear, to deliver the thing extorted to the offender”
  3. “The offender may be sufficiently near to put in fear of instant death or of instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint”

Requirements in Theft: When is it Robbery?

1.Death or hurt or wrongful restraint

This is one of the requirements when the theft is being committed to prove that the offence was an aggravated form of theft i.e., Robbery. There must be either cause of death or hurt or wrongful restraint, or attempt to cause death or hurt or wrongful restraint.

In the case of  Harinder Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1993 SC 91, the offender was a gunman of a corporation and took away some money from the cashier of that corporation while causing injuries to him. The police found the cashier being confined in a room and the offender with money. Thus, the evidence led to the conviction of the offender for the offence of robbery.[4]

2. For that end

Although the above requirement is essential, it must be coupled with the second requirement i.e., “for that end”. It means, the causing of death or hurt or wrongful confinement or fear of death or hurt or wrongful confinement must be done by the offender for the purpose of meeting the end i.e., theft of that property. If the death or hurt or wrongful confinement is caused or put in fear of, for any other reason then it would not be considered as robbery.

In the case of Harish Chandra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1976 SC 1430, when the victim was travelling by train the two accused also boarded the same compartment that of the victim’s. When some of the passengers were getting down one of the accused snatched away the victim’s wristwatch and when the victim alarmed the crowd, he was slapped by one accused and hit with a stick by the other accused. After analysing the facts of the case, the offenders were charged with robbery, but it was contended that the hurt caused to the victim was to silence him and not for meeting the end of theft of that wristwatch. Hence they are not liable for the offence of robbery. The supreme court held that the act of causing hurt was to enable the offenders to take away that property, which also falls under the ambit of “for that end”. Therefore the court upheld their conviction under section 390 of IPC.[5]

3. Possession of Stolen Property

The third essential requirement would be the possession of the property. The law of evidence under section 114 presumes that whoever is in possession of the stolen property soon after the theft committed is the thief or received those stolen goods from the thief.[6] This presumption is to be rebutted by the accused and if failed to do so, the presumption will be true and conviction will be upheld. Hence, the possession of stolen property is enough to prove the commission of theft to prove the robbery.

If a person is in possession of stolen goods of the victim, then he is presumed not only to be the thief who has stolen those goods but also any other aggravated crime related with that theft. However the conviction would depend upon strong evidence further, apart from the possession of the property.[7]

Requirements in Extortion: When is it Robbery?

1.Extortion by putting in fear

The section requires that the extortion must be committed by putting in the fear of instant hurt or instant death or instant wrongful restraint. For example, “A meets Z on the high roads, shows a pistol, and demands Z’s purse. Z, in consequence, surrenders his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from Z by putting him in fear of instant hurt and being at the time of committing the extortion in his presence. A has, therefore, committed robbery”.[8]

Further, the death or hurt or wrongful restraint or attempt thereof may be caused to the victim or any other person. For example, “A meets Z and Z’s child on the high road. A takes the child and threatens to fling it down a precipice unless Z delivers his purse. Z, in consequence, delivers his purse. Here A has extorted the purse from Z by causing Z to be in fear of instant hurt to the child who is there present. A has, therefore, committed robbery on Z”.[9] If such fear of instant death or hurt or wrongful restraint is absent and extortion took place then it may not be robbery.

2. Immediate presence of the Victim

The fear infused must be done in the presence of the victim. The presence of the victim makes a difference as to whether the victim was put to fear to commit extortion. If this essential is not fulfilled then it may not be called robbery. For example, “A obtains property from Z by saying—’Your child is in the hands of my gang, and will be put to death unless you send us ten thousand rupees’. This is extortion, and punishable as such; but it is not robbery, unless Z is put in fear of the instant death of his child”.[10] Further, the section requires, presence of the victim to be sufficiently near to put the victim into fear of instant death or instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint, if not immediately present at the time of extortion.[11]

Punishment for Robbery

The punishment for robbery is given in section 392 of the penal code.[12]

392 Punishment for robbery—Whoever commits robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, and, if the robbery be committed on the highway between sunset and sunrise, the imprisonment may be extended to fourteen years”

Gang of Robbers: Punishment for being in a gang

Section 401 gives us the punishment for belonging to a gang of thieves.[13] Though the gang of robbers is not mentioned in the section, it is a requirement or essential element for conviction is to prove that the gang must be habitually committing theft or robbery. Thus, if the member has been proved to be part of any committed theft or robbery by the gang is punishable under this section.[14]

401 Punishment for belonging to gang of thieves—Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall belong to any wandering or other gang of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing theft or robbery, and not being a gang of thugs or dacoits, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Attempt to commit robbery

Section 393 of the penal code deals with the offence of attempting to commit robbery.[15] To prove the conviction under this section, the intention of the offender to rob and an overt act in furtherance of the same intention is an essential element.[16]

393 Attempt to commit robbery—Whoever attempts to commit robbery shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Aggravated form of Robbery

The following are the punishment for “voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery, robbery with an attempt to cause death or grievous hurt” and “attempt to commit robbery when armed with deadly weapon” under the Indian Penal Code. Under robbery, it is not required to prove that there is actually an injury or hurt caused. Fear of it is also sufficient. But if an injury or hurt is actually caused then it becomes an aggravated form of robbery.[17]

394 Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery—If any person, in committing or in attempting to commit robbery, voluntarily causes hurt, such person, and any other person jointly concerned in committing or attempting to commit such robbery, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

If there are other people accompanying the main offender who has voluntarily caused hurt then all of them are liable, although the ones who accompanied actually did not cause any hurt or had no knowledge about it. This is what meant as “jointly concerned” as provided in the above section.[18]

 II. Dacoity

Dacoity is associated with the offence of robbery. If there are five or more people involved in robbery then it is said to be dacoity.[19] The minimum number of persons provided in the section must be met in the case of dacoity. The principal actors might be assisted or aided with other persons while committing or attempting to commit the robbery, then everyone is liable i.e., the principal actors and the aiding persons, for the offence of dacoity.[20]

391 Dacoity—When five or more persons 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”

Essentials

  1. Five or more persons;
  2. Commit or attempt to commit robbery- a. All five or more persons conjointly or; b. Persons present and aiding while with persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit robbery amounts to five or more;
  3. Every person so committing, attempting or aiding is said to commit dacoity.

The “five or more ” requirement 

This is an essential requirement of the offence of dacoity that the persons committing or attempting to commit the offence must be five or more in number.

In the case of  Ram Shanker Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1956 SC 441, there were six accused in the case of dacoity, and there was no other information available or no charge made that there were more than six persons involved. Three out of six were acquitted due to lack of evidence. The court held that since there are only three members involved in a robbery, it cannot hold them liable under section 395 i.e., dacoity. They were made punishable under section 392 of IPC.[21]

In another case of Saktu v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1973 SC 760, there were in total 13 members accused of committing dacoity, but out of these large numbers of people only eight or seven were named and the rest were unidentified. As most of them were acquitted due to lack of identity, the question arose as to whether the convicted ones are held for dacoity or robbery. The court relied on the evidence which proved that there were more than five people involved in the crime, but due to lack of identity, not many were convicted. Hence the ones who are convicted are liable under section 391 and section 395 of IPC.[22]

Hence, the number of persons involved is strictly followed while dealing with the offence of dacoity.[23]

Conjointly committing or attempting to commit

This is the second important essential due to which the accused can prove themselves innocent. In the case of dacoity, there must be five or more persons but all those must be conjointly participating. The meaning of the term conjointly is meant to be in association or in a union.[24]

In the case of Re Muppanna Appanna, AIR 1948 Mad 96, there was a group of five people, attacked the family members who were sleeping outside their house. One accused broke open the door of the victim’s house. Three of them stood outside guarding and two entered the house for a robbery. All of them helped to remove the boxes out of the victim’s house and two of them left with the boxes. The court held that causing hurt and robbery was all part of dacoity. As all of them aided, assisted each other and participated conjointly in the offence, it makes everyone liable. Thus, they were held guilty under sections 391 and 395 of IPC.[25]

Another important requirement within the conjoint participation is the intention. The law requires that all those who are conjointly participating, committing, attempting, or aiding must have the “dishonest intention” of committing robbery or dacoity and act in coordination. They must be intentionally aiding in the fulfilment of the offence of dacoity.

Punishment for Dacoity

The punishment for dacoity is given in section 395 and it requires the fulfilment of essentials of both robbery as well as dacoity.[26] If all the statutory requirements are met then only the guilty would be sentenced under this section.[27]

395 Punishment for dacoity—Whoever commits dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Aggravated forms of Dacoity

The penal code provides for an aggravated form of dacoity in section 396, which punishes if a murder is committed while committing the offence of dacoity or in the course of committing dacoity.[28] In this section, it is not required to prove that murder was committed by any one of the members or all the members involved in the dacoity. Further, there is no requirement to prove that there lies the common intention to commit murder while committing dacoity. The only requirement of this section is to prove that there was a murder committed while committing dacoity. Thus, this will make all the members involved responsible dacoity as well as murder committed.[29]

But it depends upon the facts and circumstances whether to hold all the members liable for dacoity along with murder committed. Further, if the dacoity is not proved bt the murder is proved then essential for a minimum number of members to be five or more may not hold good. Hence, the court has to study the facts carefully.[30]

396 Dacoity with murder—If any one of five or more persons, who are conjointly committing dacoity, commits murder in so committing dacoity, every one of those persons shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, or rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Murder or Dacoity with Murders: Specifications

When a murder is committed it is a question of facts as to whether it is a murder committed while committing the dacoity, or not? It requires the application of judicial mind and discretion to decide whether a murder has been committed during the course of dacoity. Hence the court of law has to study at what point the murder was committed while committing dacoity, at the time difference or interval between committing of dacoity and commission of murder, at the distance between places where dacoity offence was attempted to commit or been committed to that of murder committed and the time of the dacoits abandoning and the difference of time with that of the commission of murder.

All the above prove whether the murder and dacoity were part of the same transaction or not. And section 396 punishes only when the murder is connected with the transaction of dacoity and not otherwise.[31]

Further, if a case of conviction is based on the circumstances of a case, then the court has to study the following –

  • Circumstances must be firmly established by which inference of guilt is sought.
  • Circumstances proved, must have the tendency to point out the guilt of the accused.
  • These circumstances must act as a chain of events leading to the final conclusion that the accused committed the offence.
  • The evidence relied by the judge for such conviction must be complete in itself and must be incapable of leading to any other inference.
  • Apart from being totally consistent with the guilt of the accused, it must also be totally inconsistent with the innocence of the accused.[32]

Stages of Dacoity: What is punishable under IPC

There are stages of every crime and the penal code punishes certain stages of the offence of dacoity. They are – assembling for the purpose of the commission of dacoity and preparation for committing dacoity.

1.  Assembly for committing Dacoity

The law punishes the accused under this stage of dacoity only when it is proved that there were five or more persons involved and the assembly made was for the purpose of committing dacoity. If the evidence is weak or lacks evidence for either of the essentials then there can be no conviction possible.[33] The offence of assembly for the purpose of committing the offence of dacoity is given under section 402 of the penal code.[34]

402 Assembling for purpose of committing dacoity—Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall be one of five or more persons assembled for the purpose of committing dacoity, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”

 2. Preparation for committing Dacoity

The criminal law does not punish for the mere preparation stage of any crime. The accused are only punishable when the attempt has been made, after the necessary preparation.[35] But there are certain offences, where it is observed that the crimes are such which can affect the public interest at large. Hence, preparation for the commission of the offence of dacoity is made punishable under section 399 of the penal code.[36] However, it is not an easy task to prove that the preparation is being made for the purpose of dacoity.

Mere possession or collection of arms and tools cannot lead to a conviction under this section.[37] Further, some cases can be proved only when the actual commission of dacoity is proved and their conviction is established.[38]

399 Making preparation to commit dacoity—Whoever makes any preparation for committing dacoity, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Gang of Dacoits

The law punishes not only assembly for dacoity and preparation for dacoity but also when a person or accused is merely a member of the gang of dacoits. Section 400 deals with the offence of being a member of such a gang of dacoits.[39] For the conviction under this section, two things must be proved that there is such a gang of dacoits existing of which the accused is said to belong to. And the other essential is to prove that the gang is associated for the purpose of the habitual commission of dacoity.

400 Punishment for belonging to a gang of dacoits—Whoever, at any time after the passing of this Act, shall belong to a gang of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing dacoity, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”

Offences connected with Robbery and/or Dacoity

There are certain offences which are connected with the offence of robbery and/or dacoity. These are not substantive offences. There is minimum punishment prescribed by the statutory body for certain offences committed during the course of committing the offence of either robbery or dacoity.[40] They are –

1. Robbery or Dacoity with Attempt to cause death or grievous hurt [41]

397 Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt—If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any person, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years”

The section punishes the offender if he possesses the deadly weapon as well as uses it himself. If one offender is using the deadly weapon or causes grievous hurt or death or attempts to do the same, then only that person will be liable under this section and not every person in the group.[42]

2. Attempt to commit Robbery or Dacoity when armed with deadly weapon[43]:

398 Attempt to commit robbery or dacoity when armed with deadly weapon—If, at the time of attempting to commit robbery or dacoity, the offender is armed with any deadly weapon, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years”

This section prescribes punishment for those who carry deadly weapons or are armed with deadly weapons. This is a less severe punishment compared to section 397.


[1] Indian Penal Code 1860, ss 390-402

[2] Indian Penal Code 1860, ch XVII

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 390

[4] Harinder Singh v State of Punjab AIR 1993 SC 91

[5] Harish Chandra v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1976 SC 1430

[6] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 114, illustration (a)

[7] Wasim Khan v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1956 SC 400

[8] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 390, illustration (b)

[9] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 390, illustration (c)

[10] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 390, illustration (d)

[11] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 390, explanation

[12] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 392

[13] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 401

[14] Emperor v Darya Singh AIR 1923 Lah 666

[15] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 393

[16] Sanjay v State of Maharashtra (1996) Cr LJ 2712(Bom)

[17] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 394

[18] Aslam v State of Rajasthan (2008) 9 SCC 227

[19] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 391

[20] Shyam Behari v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1957 SC 320

[21] Ram Shanker Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1956 SC 441

[22] Saktu v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1973 SC 760

[23] Om Prakash v State of Rajasthan AIR 1998 SC 1220

[24] Krishna Gopal Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 2000 SC 3616

[25] Re Muppanna Appanna AIR 1948 Mad 96

[26] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 395

[27] Gopal Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh (2000) SCC 93(Cri)

[28] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 396

[29] Samunder Singh v State of West Bengal AIR 1965 Cal 598

[30] Rafiq Ahmed @ Rafi v State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 2011 SC 3114

[31] Digambar Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh (1990) Cr LJ 489(All)

[32] KV Chacko v State of Kerala (2001) Cr LJ 713(SC)

[33] Chaturi Yadav v State of Bihar AIR 1979 SC 1412

[34] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 402

[35] Malkiat Singh v State of Punjab AIR 1970 SC 713

[36] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 402

[37] Sadashiv @ Shiva Antappa Pujari v State of Maharashtra (2003) Cr LJ 3661(Bom)

[38] Amar Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh (2003) Cr LJ 1321(All)

[39] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 400

[40] Jai Prakash v State (Delhi Administration) (1981) Cr LJ 1340(Del)

[41] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 397

[42] Paramjeet Singh v State of Rajasthan (2001) Cr LJ 757(SC)

[43] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 398


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