What to do in a case of theft-legal procedure and assistance

Overview: In common usage, theft is the taking another person's property without his permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. It must be seen that the item removed from a persons’ possession is moveable, if not then it cannot be called theft.


Essential Ingredients: The essential elements to constitute theft are as follows:


  1. It should be a movable property,
  2. In the possession of any person,
  3. Presence of dishonest intention to take it out of the persons’ possession,
  4. Without the consent or permission,
  5. A moving to effect such taking.  

Areas of Application of Law: Section 378 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.


Process: Below is the step by step recourse for a person seeking relief in a case of theft:


  1. The person who has been robbed must approach the nearest police station and filing a first information report. An FIR operates as a criminal complaint on the basis of which investigation can be carried out.
  2. The complainant must be careful and opt for an FIR and not a police complaint since theft is a cognizable offence for which an FIR can be filed.
  3. In order to file the FIR details such as list of items removed under theft, their value/cost must be shared with the police. A detailed account of the robbery- time, location, the events transpired and other details that the complainant can remember have to be shared with the police.
  4. The complainant must share any and all detail of any suspect that he may think to have been involved in the theft. Their names, address, description of face/body language, peculiarities in language, dressing style etc.
  5. The complainant must also get CCTV coverage of the area of theft if any, and submit that to the police authorities.
  6. Based on such details the police will begin an investigation to find the culprits and items lost.
  7. After the investigation, if the police is able to capture the suspects, they will ask the complainant to be present for a test identification parade.
  8. Under this, the suspects will be made to stand in a line before the complainant and he will have to identify if any of them is the culprit according to him.
  9. The complainant will have to record (in writing) his statement/present his version to the cops under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  10. If the police refuse to file an FIR or conduct an investigation, the complainant can take relief under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Documents required to be submitted to the police, if any: bills of items lost depicting their original value, bills showing total loss due to theft, any documents with details of suspects such as their pictures, ID card, address, place of work etc.


Punishment/Expected Relief: The police will catch the suspect and after identification he/she will be fined and/or put behind bars (maximum of three years). 

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