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Theft in Criminal Law: Unlawful Taking of Movable Property

Criminal Law for Law Entrances

Theft is a fundamental offence in criminal law that involves the unlawful taking of movable property without the owner’s consent.

Definition of Theft

According to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), theft is defined as follows:

“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.”

Essentials of Theft

The essentials of theft are:

Intending to take dishonestly

The first essential element of theft is the intent to take the property dishonestly. This means that the person has the intention to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property through deceit, fraud or other dishonest means.

Any movable property

The offence of theft applies to movable property, which includes any item that can be physically moved or carried. It encompasses a wide range of objects such as money, jewellery, electronics, vehicles and other personal belongings.

Out of possession of any person without consent

The property must be taken out of the possession of a person without their consent for theft to occur. This means that the owner has not willingly given permission for the property to be taken by the offender.

‘Moves that property in order to such taking’

To constitute theft, the offender must physically move or displace the property from its original location as part of the process of taking it dishonestly. The act of moving the property is a crucial element that distinguishes theft from mere intention or planning.

The offence is against possession and not ownership

It is important to note that theft is an offence against possession and not ownership. Even if the offender is the rightful owner of the property, taking it dishonestly from someone else’s possession without consent would still constitute theft.

Examples of Theft


A person enters a store, conceals a valuable item in their bag without paying for it and then walks out of the store without the owner’s consent. Here, the individual had the intent to take the property dishonestly, moved the item from its original place and took it without the owner’s consent, thereby committing theft.


In a crowded marketplace, a skilled pickpocket discreetly removes a wallet from someone’s pocket without their knowledge or consent. The pickpocket intended to dishonestly take the movable property, the wallet, without the owner’s consent and moved it from the owner’s possession, satisfying the elements of theft.

Vehicle Theft

An individual breaks into a parked car hotwires the ignition and drives away with the vehicle without the owner’s consent. By intending to dishonestly take the movable property (the car), moving it from the owner’s possession and depriving the owner of its possession, the offender commits theft.


Theft in criminal law involves the unlawful taking of movable property without the owner’s consent, intending to do so dishonestly. The essential elements include intent, movable property, lack of consent, moving the property and focusing on possession rather than ownership. By understanding these elements and their application, we can better comprehend the legal framework surrounding the theft and its implications in various real-life scenarios.

Note: Access complete CLAT Legal Reasoning notes here.

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