Section 425 : 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”.
Explanation 1.—It is not essential to the offence of mischief that the offender should intend to cause loss or damage to the owner of the property injured or destroyed. It is sufficient if he intends to cause, or knows that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to any person by injuring any property, whether it belongs to that person or not.
Explanation 2.—Mischief may be committed by an act affecting property belonging to the person who commits the act, or to that person and others jointly.
- A voluntarily burns a valuable security belonging to Z intending to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A, having joint property with Z in a horse, shoots the horse, intending thereby to cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
- 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.
Essential Ingredients of Mischief :
An offence of mischief under this section requires that the intention of the person committing the mischief should be to cause loss or damage to the public, or to any person by causing destruction of any property or any such change in any property or in the situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility injuriously.
It was held in Nagendra Nath Roy v. Bijoy Kumar Das Verma, that mere negligence is not mischief. Negligence coupled with intention to cause wrongful loss or damage may amount to mischief.
Mischief involves mental act with destructive animus.
Ingredients. – The section requires following elements to constitute an offence under this section:
- Intention or knowledge of likelihood to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person;
- Causing the destruction of some property or any change in it or in its situation; and
- Such change must destroy or diminish its value or utility, or affect it injuriously.
1. Intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person. – It is not necessary that there must be damage of destructive nature to constitute an offence under this section but it requires merely that there should be an invasion of right and diminution of the value of one’s property. Where some persons belonging to one village pulled and removed fishing stakes lawfully fixed in the sea within three miles of the shore by the villagers of another village, and the removal of the stakes, though without any intention to appropriate them, occasioned
“damage”, it was held that the offence amounted to mischief.
2. Causes the destruction of any property or any such change in any property etc.-The main ingredient of this section is the destruction of property or such change in it as destroys or diminishes its value or utility.
The accused on receiving delivery of a registered article from a postmaster was requested to sign an acknowledgment for the article received by him, but instead of returning the same duly signed he tore it up and threw it on the ground. It was held that he was guilty of mischief.
In Byomkesh Battacharya v. LN. Datta, the accused stopped supply of water to the complainants flat through operation of wrench valve key and, thereby, turning the main pipe outside the storage reservoir. It was held by the High Court that the expression “change in the property so as to destroy or diminish its value or utility” in section 425 does not necessarily mean a change in character, composition or form: If something is done to the property contrary to its natural use and serviceableness that destroys or diminishes its value or utility, it will amount to mischief. It is not necessary that there must be a material change in the property itself nor does section 425 require that value or utility of the property means its market value or utility.
The stoppage of water supply in the manner in which it was done in this case was something contrary to the natural use and serviceableness of the water pipe for the purpose it was being used and obviously such act diminishes or destroys the value or utility of the same.
‘Property under this section means some tangible property which can be forcibly destroyed but does not include easement. ‘Change means some physical change in composition or form of the property. The section contemplates a physical injury from a physical cause.
‘Change means a physical change in composition or form. The section contemplates a physical injury from a physical cause. Making a breach in the wall of a canal is an act which causes such a change in the property as destroys or diminishes its value or affects it injuriously.
In Ram Das Pandey vs Nagendra Nath Chattarji 1948, Where a landlord, in breach of an agreement with his tenants, omitted to pump water into their flats from a central reservoir without, however, interfering in any way with their taking water from the central reservoir, such omission did not constitute such a change as would make it “mischief” within the meaning of this section. There is a contrary view to this which holds that cutting off the water supply does constitute an offence of mischief.
So also would be the case in regard to cutting off the supply of electricity by the landlord to the tenanted portion of the house. This latter view appears to be more reasonable.
Explanation 1. –It is not necessary that the property destroyed should belong to the person injuriously affected. It is sufficient if he suffers loss of interest due to destruction of such property. Illustrations (e) and (f) exemplify this.
Explanation 2. –One may commit an offence under this section even by the destruction of his own property. Illustrations (b) and (g) show that a man may commit mischief on his own property. A person who destroys property which at the time belongs to himself, with the intention of causing or knowing that it is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to any body else is guilty of this offence.
Section 426 : Punishment for Mischief
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.