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August 22, 2004 

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Criminal Misappropriation of Property

Law Desk

The essence of the offence of criminal misappropriation of property is that when any property of another person comes into the possession of the accused in some neutral manner and is misappropriated and converted to his own use by that accused. No entrustment is required for the offence to be constituted. Section 403 and 404 of the Penal code describes the offence.

Criminal misappropriation takes place when the possession has been innocently come out but where a subsequent change of intention, or from the knowledge of some new fact with which the party was not previously acquainted, the retaining becomes wrongful and fraudulent. The offence consists in the dishonest misappropriation or conversion, either permanently or for a time being with the intention for causing wrongful gain or wrongful loss. All that is required, that there should be an intention of causing such gain or loss which would amount to dishonesty (35 Cr. LJ 982 FB). There must be something to prove dishonesty. Intention has got to be proved. For example if any person finds a purse with money not knowing to whom it belongs but afterwards he discovers that it belongs to another specific person and intentionally appropriates the money for his own use then that person is guilty for criminal misappropriation of property.

Ingredients: For committing the offence of criminal misappropriation of property there must be:
1. Dishonest misappropriation or conversion of property for a person's own use.
2. Such property must be movable.

When a person retains or misappropriates the property in assertion of a bona-fide claim of right, though unfounded, in law and fact, he is not guilty of criminal misappropriation because there is no dishonest intention. Retention of money for a sufficiently long period by a person, who is bound under law to return it to another legally entitled the money, raises an inference of a temporary misappropriation within the meaning of the said section of Penal Code. A false denial of a loan is not in itself a misappropriation at all, and no more than an attempt to evade civil liability for the money lent.

There cannot be any criminal misappropriation with regard to immovable property. It is sufficient for the prosecution to establish that some of the money mentioned in the charge has been misappropriated by the accused even though it may be uncertain what is the exact amount so misappropriated.

On the other side when a person who finds any property and takes such property for the purpose of protecting it or of restoring it to the actual owner and does not convert or misappropriate it dishonestly, in that case he is not guilty for the offence of criminal misappropriation of property. But when he misappropriates it for his own use and when he knows or has the means of discovering the real owner or he does not take reasonable time to discover and give notice to the owner for enable him to claiming the property then he is guilty for the offence above mentioned.

Punishment: Section 403 and 404 of Penal Code fixed punishments for criminal misappropriation of property. When any person dishonestly misappropriates or converts any movable property to his own use, that person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. Moreover when any person misappropriates or coverts to his own use of any property, knowing that such property was in the possession of a deceased or dead person at the time of that person's decease and has not been since now in the possession of any person legally entitled to such possession, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Accordingly if the offender at the time of such person's decease employed by him as a clerk or servant the imprisonment may extend up to seven years.


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