When a person commits mischief he only causes loss to another but he does not gain anything himself, while in theft he makes a wrongful dishonest gain of property at the expense of the victim.

Difference Between Theft and Mischief




No

                   Theft

                  
                 Mischief

1)

Definition :  

      The offence of theft has been defined in section 378 of the Indian Penal Code :  

     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.


Definition :

The offence of mischief has been defined under section 425 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. -

     Whoever with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property or in the situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously, commits "mischief".


2)

Examples:

    a) A cuts down a tree on Z's ground, with the intention of dishonestly taking the tree out of Z's possession without Z's consent. Here, as soon as A has severed the tree in order to such taking, he has committed theft.

   b) A puts a bait for dogs in his pocket, and thus induces Z's dog to follow it. Here, if A's intention be dishonestly to take the dog out of Z's possession without Z's consent, A has committed theft as soon as Z's dog has begun to follow A.

  c) A meets a bullock carrying a box of treasure. He drives the bullock in a certain direction, in order that he may dishonestly take the treasure. As soon as the bullock begins to move, A has committed theft of the treasure.

   d) A being Z's servant, and entrusted by Z with the care of Z's plate, dishonestly runs away with the plate, without Z's consent. A has committed theft.

    e) Z, going on a journey, entrusts his plate to A, the keeper of a warehouse, till Z shall return. A carries the plate to a goldsmith and sells it. Here the plate was not in Z's possession. It could not therefore be taken out of Z's possession, and A has not committed theft, though he may have committed criminal breach of trust.

    f) A finds a ring belonging to Z on a table in the house which Z occupies. Here the ring is in Z's possession, and if A dishonestly removes it, A commits theft.

    g) A finds a ring lying on the high-road, not in the possession of any person. A, by taking it, commits no theft, though he may commit criminal misappropriation of property.

    h) A sees a ring belonging to Z lying on a table in Z's house. Not venturing to misappropriate the ring immediately for fear of search and detection, A hides the ring in a place where it is highly improbable that it will ever be found by Z, with the intention of taking the ring from the hiding place and selling it when the loss is forgotten. Here A, at the time of first moving the ring, commits theft.



Examples:

  a) A voluntarily burns a valuable security belonging to Z intending to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.

   b) A introduces water in to an ice-house belonging to Z and thus causes the ice to melt, intending wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.

  c) A voluntarily throws into a river a ring belonging to Z, with the intention of thereby causing wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.

  d) A, knowing that his effects are about to be taken in execution in order to satisfy a debt due from him to Z, destroys those effects, with the intention of thereby preventing Z from obtaining satisfaction of the debt, and of thus causing damage to Z. A has committed mischief.

  e) A having insured a ship, voluntarily causes the same to be cast away, with the intention of causing damage to the underwriters. A has committed mischief.

   f) A causes a ship to be cast away, intending thereby to cause damage to Z who has lent money on bottomry on the ship. A has committed mischief.

   g) A, having joint property with Z in a horse, shoots the horse, intending thereby to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
  
   h) A causes cattle to enter upon a field belonging to Z, intending to cause and knowing that he is likely to cause damage to Z's crop. A has committed mischief.

3)

Punishment:

   Whoever commits theft shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.



Punishment:

Whoever commits mischief shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.

4)

The offence under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code is cognizable, non-bailable, compoundable with the permission of the court before which any prosecution of such offence is pending and triable by any Magistrate.  



The offence under Section 425 of the Indian Penal code is non-cognizable, bailable, compoundable and triable by any magistrate.  






See also 

1) Difference between Rash and Negligence act

2) Distinction / Difference between Kidnapping and Abduction

3) Distinction / Difference between Criminal Conspiracy and Abetment

4) Difference between Theft and Criminal Breach of Trust

5) Distinction / difference between Theft and Extortion

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