LAW YOG
Mischief

Mischief under Indian Penal Code

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The Indian penal code,1860 in its section 425 aptly defines 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”’. In simple language it means restricting a person from the enjoyment of their own property by causing destruction to the property in one way or another. While doing this act the intention of the person must be causing wrongful loss or damage to the public or any property. 

Explanation 1 -It is not essential to the offence of mischief that the offender should intend to cause loss or damage to the owner of the property injured or destroyed; It is sufficient if he intends to cause, or knows that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to any person by injuring any property, whether it belongs to the person or not.

Explanation 2.- Mischief may be committed by an act affecting property belonging to the person who commits the act, or to that person and others jointly.

This provision clearly means that intention or knowledge is required for committing the offence of mischief. The offence of mischief is based on maxim ‘sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas’ which means to use the property of one’s own in such a manner as to not to injure the property of another. In simple words, mischief is destroying the property of another person in order to destroy or diminish its value. 

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Illustrations

  •  A voluntarily throws a ring into the water that belongs to Z in order to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
  • A deliberately leaves his dog on the road to bite Z. A committed the offence of mischief.
  • A and B own joint property and A without informing B sold that property to C with intention to cause wrongful loss to B. A has committed the offence of mischief.
  • A voluntarily throws important documents belonging to B in order to cause wrongful harm to B. A committed the offence of mischief.

Essential Ingredients of mischief are –

There should be clear intention or knowledge to cause wrongful loss or damage to the property or the person.

Mens rea is an essential ingredient of mischief.  Intention and knowledge are sufficient to be called an act as mischief. The act may or may not be directed to the owner of the property. The act done must not be accidental or mistaken. To prove the act of mischief it is not essential to prove that the accused intentionally caused damage to the property rather it is also sufficient to have that the accused had knowledge that his action can cause damage to the property. For example, imagine two drivers X and Y end up killing a pedestrian. Driver X never saw the person until it was too late, and tried best to save the person, but he could not stop the accident and ended up killing him whereas driver Y saw that person from the distance and after that also he hit the gas pedal and slammed into him, killing him instantly. In the first case, driver X is still liable and in the civil court charged for damages as no intention or knowledge was present. But on the other hand, driver Y is charged for killing because intention and knowledge was there. So, in this situation, both drivers are liable for their act but charged differently because of intent involved.

In the case of Arjun Singh v. The State1 court has observed that in order to establish the offence of mischief, it is essential for the prosecution to establish that the accused must have an intention or knowledge of likelihood to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person.

In the case of Krishna Gopal Singh and Ors. vs the State of U.P2 it was held that the offence of mischief would not be committed if the act done by the accused is without the intent of causing wrongful loss or damage to person or property. Also, the acts done under force do not come under the ambit of mischief.

Wrongful damage or loss

The act must have caused damage, destruction, to the property or wrongful loss to the public or individual. This will constitute Actus Rea of the offence. Actus Rea describes any physical act that leads to harms another person or damages property. The intention of the accuser can be that of causing wrongful loss or damage to any person. For example, A voluntarily burns a valuable security belonging to Z intending to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.

The act must cause destruction or damage or any change in the property or situation thereof.

It must be important that damage should be a direct consequence of the alleged act. It can also be caused by causing destruction or change in the property. The destruction or damage caused in the property must be due to physical cause. For example, let’s say A causes cattle to enter upon a field belonging to Z, intending to cause and knowing that he is likely to cause damage to Z’s crop. A has committed mischief.

The changes lead to destroy or diminishing the value or utility of the property

The change in property does not mean to change the physical composition or structure of the property. It is related to its natural use and its serviceability that diminishes its value, it will amount to mischief.

In the case Arjuna vs. State3 the court found out that the accused is guilty for his act of damaging crops grown on the land belonging to the government as it results in diminishing the value of land. 

Punishment of Mischief

According to Section 426 of Indian penal Code 1860, whoever commits the offense of mischief shall be punishable with imprisonment for the term which may extend to three months or fine or both. 

Aggravated form of Mischief 

The aggravated form for mischief has been listed from Section 427 to 440 of Indian Penal Code 1860. These aggravated forms of mischief are punished differently as per provision of the section. 

Mischief based on nature of property damaged 

It includes section 427 to section 434 which deals with punishment of  aggravated  form of mischief based upon the nature of property damaged. 

Section 427 – Mischief based on the amount of damage

Whoever commits mischief and thereby causes loss or damage to the amount of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 428 – Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees

Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. This section aims to protect animals from the violence of mischief by human beings. It is necessary to prove mens Rea under this section. Mere wounding would not constitute mischief. Maming does not mean causing temporary injury or wounds to an animal. Rather it refers to a permanent injury affecting the limb or other parts of the body. 

Section 429 – Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees.

Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. The difference between this section and section 428 is the value of the victim animal and period of imprisonment. Mere negligence won’t amount to mischief. Mens Rea and Actus Rea are needed to be proven for the offence of mischief. 

Section 430 – Mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water.

Whoever commits mischief by doing any act which causes, or which he knows to be likely to cause, a diminution of the supply of water for agricultural purposes, or for food or drink for human beings or for animals which are property, or for cleanliness or for carrying on any manufacture, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. This section aims to prevent any sort of disturbance caused in supply of water for agriculture, drinking, for food. Also, the intention of the accuser to cause wrongful loss to the person is an important ingredient for committing mischief. 

Section 431 – Mischief by injury to a public road, bridge, river or channel

Whoever commits mischief by doing any act which renders or which he knows to be likely to render any public road, bridge, navigable river or navigable channel, natural or artificial, impassable or less safe for travelling or conveying property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. The intention of the accuser is to cause wrongful loss or damage to the property which is used by the general public for communication.

Section 432 – Mischief by causing inundation or obstruction to public drainage attended with damage.

Whoever commits mischief by doing any act which causes or which he knows to be likely to cause an inundation or an obstruction to any public drainage attended with injury or damage, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. 

Section 433 – Mischief by destroying, moving or rendering less useful a light-house or sea-mark.

Whoever commits mischief by destroying or moving any light-house or other light used as a sea-mark or any sea-mark or buoy or other thing placed as a guide for navigators, or by any act which renders any such light-house, sea-mark, buoy or other such things as aforesaid less useful as a guide for navigators, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both. The punishment as compared to previous sections are more serious as destruction caused is more disastrous.

Section – 434 Mischief by destroying or moving, etc., a land-mark fixed by public authority.

Whoever commits mischief by destroying or moving any land-mark fixed by the authority of a public servant, or by any act which renders such land-mark less useful as such, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. 

Offence of Arson 

It includes Section 435 to section 438 of Indian Penal Code. It deals with an aggravated form of mischief based upon method to cause damage. Section 435 and Section 436 are termed as offences of Arson. 

Section 435 – Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of one hundred or (in case of agricultural produce) ten rupees.

Whoever commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, damage to any property to the amount of one hundred rupees or upwards or (where the property is agricultural produce) ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 436 – Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy the house, etc.

Whoever commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, the destruction of any building which is ordinarily used as a place of worship or as a human dwelling or as a place for the custody of property, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 437 – Mischief with intent to destroy or make unsafe a decked vessel or one of twenty tons burden.

Whoever commits mischief to any decked vessel or any vessel of a burden of twenty tons or upwards, intending to destroy or render unsafe, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby destroy or render unsafe, that vessel, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 438 – Punishment for the mischief described in section 437 committed by fire or explosive substance.

Whoever commits, or attempts to commit, by fire or any explosive substance, such mischief as is described in the last preceding section, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 439. Punishment for intentionally running a vessel aground or ashore with intent to commit theft, etc.

Whoever intentionally runs any vessel aground or ashore, intending to commit theft of any property contained therein or to dishonestly misappropriate any such property, or with the intent that such theft or misappropriation of the property may be committed, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 440 – Mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt.

Whoever commits mischief, having made preparation for causing to any person death, or hurt, or wrongful restraint, or fear of death, or of hurt, or of wrongful restraint, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Conclusion

Mischief means causing or having knowledge of doing an act which is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to any person or property, cause destruction or diminish its value or utility. The acts which are accidental or negligent do not make mischief punishable. Only the acts which are done with the intention to cause damage are covered under the ambit of mischief. There are 15 sections in total that cover mischief. But still, it doesn’t cover all aspects of mischief and only describes certain situations followed by some scenario in which mischief is punished as a crime. There are other cases related to mischief which are not mentioned in IPC and depend upon the discretion of the court for establishment and punishment of crime. So it can be concluded that mischief as crime does not hold a solid grip on procedural law and requires a further detailed explanation. 

Endnotes

1.  AIR 1958 Raj 347

2.  AIR 2000 SC 3616 

3.  AIR 1969 Ori 200

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Avni Mehra

Student, ICFAI University, Dehradun

Avni Mehra is a passionate law student who is ready to learn and face new challenges. As an avid reader and researcher, her interest areas include business law, criminal law and family law. She is enthusiastic, knowledge seeker and a hard worker. For any clarification, suggestion or advice you can reach her at avnimehra38@gmail.com

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