FACTS OF THE CASE:
- Ram Kumar Ram was a friend of the appellant. Pyarelal Bhargava, who was a Superintendent in the Chief Engineer’s Office, Alwar.
- At the instance of Ram Kumar Ram, Pyarelal Bhargava got the file from the Secretariat through a clerk, took the file to his house sometime and then made it available to Ram Kumar Ram for removing the affidavit filed by him and substituting in their place another letter.
- He made a confession when the Chief Engineer threatened that if he did not disclose the truth the matter would be placed in the hands of the Police.
- That confession was later retracted.
- The first question which the court raised was regarding the extent of section 24 of the Evidence Act?
- Whether the act of taking and then returning the file would constitute the offense of ‘Theft’ under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code?
- Under section 24 of the evidence act, a confession would be irrelevant if the following conditions were satisfied : (1) it should be caused by any inducement, threat, or promise; (2) the said threat, inducement, or promise must have reference to the charge against the accused person; (3) it shall proceed from a person’s authority; and (4) the court shall be of the opinion that the said inducement, threat or promise is sufficient to give the accused grounds which are reasonable in supposing that he would gain an advantage or avoid any evil. The section, therefore, makes it clear that it is the duty of the court to place itself in the position of the accused and to form an opinion as to the state of his mind in the circumstances of a case.
In this case, the three lower courts concurrently held that in the circumstances of the case the statement did not appear to be a threat within the meaning of s. 24 of the Evidence Act, but that was only a general statement which any person who lost his property and was not able to find out the culprit would make.
- s. 378 of the Indian Penal Code reads : “Whoever, intending to take dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent, moves that property in order to such taking, is said to commit theft.”
The said facts do not constitute the offence of theft for three reasons;
(i) the Superintendent was in possession of the file and therefore he could not have taken the file from himself;
(ii) there was no intention to take it dishonestly as he had taken it only for the purpose of showing the documents to Ram Kumar Ram and returned it the next day to the office and therefore he had not taken the said file out of the possession of any person; and
(iii) he did not intend to take it dishonestly, as he did not receive any wrongful gain or cause any wrongful loss to any other person.