-Shruti Sharma

BACKGROUND ( Liability Harbouring Dacoits )

If a robbery is committed by five or more persons, it amounts to a dacoity. Thereby meaning that any robbery which has five or more numbers of offenders is an act of dacoity. They must also have a common intention. The sections 391, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 216A and 402 are the penal provisions of the dacoity under the IPC. The punishment of dacoity is imprisonment of life or rigorous imprisonment that may extend to a period of not less than ten years and also shall be liable to fine. The punishment for harbouring or having the intention to facilitate the dacoits is rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to seven years and also shall be liable to fine. There are certain ingredients which must be fulfilled for the offence of dacoity, which is- (a) the accused has committed or attempted to commit a robbery; (b) the persons committing or attempting to commit the robbery must not be less than five and; (c) the offence must be committed conjointly. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution regarding these essential conditions. 

When the dacoity is committed by veiled individuals, their identities must also be established. The number of persons committing the robbery is important to establish the offence of dacoity. This is because the dacoity is, in fact, an aggravated form of the robbery itself. The punishment under the Section 216A of the IPC arises when the person with the knowledge or the reason to believe regarding the commission of dacoity by certain persons, and assists or harbours regarding the commission of the offence. In the case of Guddan and Anr vs. State, the co-accused were acquitted of the charges under the exceptions of the aforementioned provision of IPC. Because the provision doesn’t extend to the husband or wife of the offender, the co-accused was not convicted under the same. 

In the case of State vs. Om Singh, Karan Singh and others the court could not be satisfied with of the charges made against a co-accused of the offence, merely because all the evidence of the other co-accused led to his residence. Prima facie, that did not raise any Liability to him Harbouring the Dacoits. Therefore, the prosecution must establish it without any reasonable doubt, regarding the charges made under the present provisions. Similar was concluded in the case of Pranav vs. State of NCT of Delhi whereby the burden of concrete proof was under the prosecution regarding the application of section 216A on the co-accused. The involvement of the said co-accused did not provide any proof of robbery by the other accused. 

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In the case of Gopal Sarkar vs. State of West Bengal, the division bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ravi Krishna Kapur observed that penal Liability would not arise if the person hasn’t been Harbouring the Dacoits to intending to commit the offence. There has to be proof of the identity of the person in the offence as well. The common intention, thus, makes a key component of such a conviction under Section 216A. The present case was filed against the order of the Trial Court, which had sentenced the appellant to a punishment of rigorous imprisonment for seven years. 

The appellant argued that no evidence could be legally admissible to prove his participation in the dacoity. The miscreants had broken into the convent school premises, committed dacoity and also raped one of the nuns. But there were neither any identification by the witnesses present at the scene of a crime, nor did the fingerprints match with the ones found at the place of occurrence of the crime. Even the CCTV Footage could not confirm his involvement in the crime. The accusations were made against him merely because he was a relative of the prime accused in the said offence. The prime accused had been staying at the appellant’s residence while he committed the crime.

The division bench in their order stated that merely a close relation in the family did not amount to the conviction of the appellant under Section 216A of the IPC. The bench also said that only such an association between the persons and the accused owing to family relations could not be interpreted as a meeting of mind between them to commit dacoity. Apart from that, no evidence could be retrieved to prove their intention to commit the said offence. Even if the convict had enjoyed the generosity of the appellant before the commission of the crime, it did not mean a common intention between the two regarding such a dacoity, and neither did it meant that the appellant knew the same. In the case of Kashmira Singh vs. The State of MP, the apex court had held that the confession of the accused does not amount to any substantive evidence against the co-accused. The same judgment was relied upon by the bench in the present case.

CONCLUSION ( Liability Harbouring Dacoits )

Taking the reference from Emperor (Supra note 7), it was concluded that any penal Liability would not arise against any person who has been Harbouring the Dacoits without any knowledge of the same. There must be a proof of the same, which must be beyond any reasonable doubt along with the material evidence of the common intention behind such a dacoity by all the persons. 

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