For conviction u/s 411 IPC, it must be established that the accused had knowledge that the property was stolen property: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court ruled that for the conviction u/s 411 IPC, it must be established that the accused had knowledge that the property was stolen property.

Background 

The challenge in the appeal is to the judgment in the Criminal Appeal whereunder the appellant’s conviction by the trial Court under Section 411 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was sustained by the High Court.

For such conviction, the appellant was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 2 years and fine of Rs. 1,000 and in default of fine payment, additional R.I. for 3 months was ordered.

Arguments 

Advocate Lav Kumar Agrawal, appearing for the appellant, submitted that the essential ingredients of Section 411 IPC offence are not at all made out as the prosecution has failed to adduce any evidence to show that the accused had knowledge that the seized articles were stolen from the looted truck.

He argued that unless the knowledge of the accused on the nature of the articles sold by them is established, his conviction under Section 411 of the IPC cannot be sustained in law.

Advocate Gopal Jha, appearing for the Respondent State contended that there are adequate material and evidence on record which establishes the guilt of the accused, beyond reasonable doubt.

He submitted that as the articles were being sold at cheaper rates would lead to the logical inference that the ingredients under Section 411 of the IPC are satisfied against the appellant.

Decision 

The division bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy stated that although recovery of items was made, the prosecution must further establish the essential ingredient of knowledge of the appellant that such goods are stolen property.

“Reliance solely upon the disclosure statement of accused Raju alias Rajendra and Sadhu alias Vijaybhan Singh will not otherwise be clinching, for the conviction under Section 411 of the IPC,” the court observed. 

The bench said that the initial possession of the goods in question may not be illegal but retaining those with the knowledge that it was stolen property, makes it culpable.

The court further stated that the prosecution has failed to establish that the appellant had the knowledge that articles seized from his possession are stolen goods.

“The disclosure statement of one accused cannot be accepted as a proof of the appellant having knowledge of utensils being stolen goods” the court added.

The bench observed that the factum of selling utensils at a lower price cannot, by itself, lead to the conclusion that the appellant was aware of the theft of those articles.

“The Prosecution’s evidence on this aspect, as they would speak of the character Gratiano in Merchant of Venice, can be appropriately described as, “you speak an infinite deal of nothing” the court cited.

The court while ordering the acquittal of the appellant said that by applying the test in Trimbak, it must be held that the appellant was erroneously convicted.

Case title: Shiv Kumar v/s The State of Madhya Pradesh

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1503 OF 2022

Click here to read the Order/Judgment

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