What to Do If Someone Steals Your Property?

Stealing is taking something from someone dishonestly without their permission. It is morally wrong and is punishable under law.

According to the Report of Crimes by the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,44,119 cases of robbery, theft, dacoity, and burglary were reported in residential premises in 2017.

Stealing through in a general sense means taking something without the owner’s permission, it can be in the form of theft, robbery, dacoity, extortion, or even an attempt to commit theft.

Theft is the most common crime committed in India.

This article is divided into two parts: the first part tells us in layman terms what stealing is and the second part explains the procedure of a criminal trial in India.

The major framework for Criminal law in India is regulated by two acts: Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Penal Code. The Indian Penal Code is a detailed Code that elaborately lists the offences and their punishments. Criminal Procedure Code is the procedural law and lays down the process and rules for conducting a criminal trial in India.

Theft Under Indian Penal Code:-

Chapter XVII of the IPC deals with Offences against Property which enlists all the offences which amount to stealing conventionally.

Section 378 IPC defines Theft. It is the act of taking away the property of another without that person’s consent with a dishonest intention. There are prerequisites for theft which need to be fulfilled if an act of stealing is said to be a theft. These are:

1. Dishonest Intention- Malafide intention forms the core element of theft. Section 24 of IPC defines dishonestly as doing something with an intention to cause wrongful gain to one or wrongful loss to another. There has to be a dishonest intention to steal which should cause wrongful loss to the rightful owner or wrongful gain to the one stealing it.

2. Movable Property- The stolen property should be movable property. The explanation to section 378 very well explains that the property should be movable. If a thing is attached to the earth, as soon as it is severed, it becomes capable of being the subject of theft. Immovable property can be stolen once it is converted to movable property.

3. Property should be taken away from the possession of an individual- A ownerless property cannot be stolen. For a theft to occur, the property should be in possession of someone and it should be taken away from them.

4. Property should be taken away without the consent of the owner- The owner of the property should not approve of taking away of the property. Consent can be expressed or implied, and it should be out of free will and not obtained through force.

Punishment for theft is mentioned in Section 379. A person who commits theft would be imprisoned for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or both.

Aggravated forms of theft include theft in dwelling house or theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of the master.

Theft in dwelling house means that any person who commits theft in any building, tent or vessel which is used for human dwelling or used for the custody of property will be imprisoned for a term which may extend to seven years and shall be liable to fine.

Whoever being in the capacity of clerk or servant commits theft in respect of any property which is in possession of the employer or master, shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend to seven years and shall be liable to fine.

As per Section 181 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the offence of theft may be tried by the court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction such crime was committed or the stolen property was possessed by the thief.

Working of the Police:-

The first response when someone steals from you should be to report to the police and file an FIR. Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down the procedure to be followed by the police while registering an FIR. FIR is the First Information Report and can be lodged in the nearest police station and there are no charges incurred for the same. Since theft is a cognizable offense, the police have the power to arrest without a warrant.

After the FIR has been filed, the police start the investigation. Then the evidence is collected through recording of statements by the witnesses under section 161 of CrPC, through documents and through recording of statements and confessions before the Magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC.

As soon as the investigation is completed, a police report is filed under Section 173 of CrPC containing all the information regarding the case, investigation process, and the evidence collected. This final report is called Chargesheet. This Chargesheet is filed before the Magistrate, then the Magistrate may issue a warrant for the accused to be arrested and appear before him on the date specified by him.

In case sufficient evidence is not there to prove that the crime is committed, the police can close the case after justifying their reasons in the court. Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code can be attracted if a false complaint is filed.

This is where the investigation process ends and the police authorities hand over the case to the Public Prosecutor and the trial begins in the Court thereafter.

The complainant submits his complaint against the accused, facts of the case, and asks for relief in the case filed before the court. Plaintiff is the one who files this plaint and the one who it is filed against is called the Defendant. A Vakalatnama is also filed which authorizes the advocate to fight the case on behalf of the client.

Process of Criminal Trial under Cr.P.C.:-

Chapter XVIII of the Criminal Procedure Code deals with Trial before a Court of Session. Section 225 of CrPC states that in every trial before a Court of Session, the prosecution shall be conducted by a Public Prosecutor.

The case would open with prosecution describing the charges brought against the accused.

After hearing the arguments of the prosecutor and submissions of the accused, if the judge thinks that the charges are not made out, he shall discharge the accused. But if the charges are framed, the trial before the court starts.

The charges are then explained to the accused and is asked whether he pleads guilty or claims to be tried. If the accused pleads guilty, the judge could convict him directly under Section 229 CrPC. If not, the accused has to face the trial. The onus of proof lies on the Prosecution generally.

After the evidence, i.e. the documents and the testimony of the witnesses is submitted, the accused is examined by the Court and both parties are heard, if the Judge thinks that there is no evidence that the accused committed the crime, he may order an acquittal under Section 232 of CrPC. If the accused is not acquitted, the Judge calls upon the accused to answer in his defense the questions which are formed due to the testimony of the witnesses against him.

Once this is concluded, arguments are heard by the Judge and both the counsels shall sum up the case. After hearing the arguments and points of law, the Judge shall give his judgment and convict or acquit the accused. In case he is convicted, the Judge according to section 360 of CrPC hear the accused on the quantum of sentence and then give a detailed judgement punishing the accused and passing a sentence, according to the provisions of law.

Appeal can be made accordingly to Higher Courts (Sessions Court/High Court/Supreme Court).


Theft is the most common crime committed in India. From snatching chains to house theft or highway robbery, there are a plethora of cases we see in newspapers. Sometimes it is done for the most trivial reasons and sometimes it is as planned as the Netflix series Money Heist. There is always a legal recourse and you should always report to the police and let them do their job.

This article is authored by Mrunal Pol, Third-Year B.A.LL.B, student at ILS Law College, Pune.

Also Read – Infringement Of Privacy Pertaining To Credentials Theft


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