While reading Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as IPC or the Code), I found something bit interesting. The whole Code is interesting, very carefully drafted and an example of exhaustive statute. IPC includes offences and punishments. It is so much inclusive that it lists not only common offences like theft, robbery, dacoity, rape, abduction, kidnapping but also some unthinkable offences like ‘Fouling water of public spring or reservoir’ (Sec. 277) and ‘Erasure of mark denoting that stamp has been used’ (Sec. 263) etc. For common readers I wish to provide these two offences from the Code.
277. Fouling water of public spring or reservoir.—Whoever voluntarily corrupts or fouls the water of any public spring or reservoir, so as to render it less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
263. Erasure of mark denoting that stamp has been used.—Whoever fraudulently or with intent to cause loss to Government, erases or removes from a stamp issued by Government for the purpose of revenue, any mark, put or impressed upon such stamp for the purpose of denoting that the same has been used, or knowingly has in his possession or sells or disposes of any such stamp from which such mark has been erased or removed, or sells or disposes of any such stamp which he knows to have been used, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
So the Code provides definitions of offences and punishments for it. Now coming to the interesting part for which I wished to write this piece.
Sec. 445 talks about ‘Housebreaking’.
445. Housebreaking.—A person is said to commit “housebreaking” who commits house-trespass if he effects his entrance into the house or any part of it in any of the six ways hereinafter described; or if, being in the house or any part of it for the purpose of committing an offence, or, having committed an offence therein, he quits the house or any part of it in any of such six ways, that is to say:—
Now let us not go into those six ways, as that will be out of context. After this, Sec. 446 speaks of the same offence but done ‘by night’.
446. Housebreaking by night.—Whoever commits housebreaking after sunset and before sunrise, is said to commit “housebreaking by night”.
We clearly see two different Sections viz. Sec. 445 and Sec. 446, bearing difference only of time. Punishments for these offences are provided in Sec. 453 and Sec. 456 respectively.
453. Punishment for lurking house-trespass or housebreaking.—Whoever commits lurking house-trespass or housebreaking, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.
456. Punishment for lurking house-trespass or housebreaking by night.—Whoever commits lurking house-trespass by night, or housebreaking by night, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
So, it can be clearly seen that Sec. 453 demands punishment of imprisonment which may extend to two years and fine. But Sec. 456 demands punishment of imprisonment which may extend to three years and fine. For the same offence, done by night, imprisonment may be for 3 years. The question here is ‘can time magnitude only change the severity of punishment’? Or will the punishment depend upon the time when the crime is committed? Theft is theft, done in days’ time or by night. Equal punishment is there. Time cannot change the punishment. If you do ‘housebreaking’ by day you will be punished of imprisonment upto 2 years, but same if you do by night, you may be punished to 3 years. In other words, ‘housebreaking’ by day has smaller punishment. Housebreaking before night (before sunset and after sunrise) may save you one year in jail! Also, one can start the ‘procedure’ of housebreaking by evening and carry on it till the Sun sets. Then rests for the Sun to rise, and then again begins his ‘work’ to complete it. If at all he is caught, then what should be done? He will need a good lawyer!
When I talked about it to a former Commissioner of Police (CP) of Mumbai, he told me that there are chances of other things and effects in the night. He also pointed out such Sections in The Police Act. Quantity of suspicion is more by night. Some lawyers also told me that circumstances at night are different and therefore the difference in punishment. But I still feel that punishment should be for crime/offence. And not be dependent on the time factor. If he does something more at night owing to other things and circumstances, he may be very well punished for those additional things. But for equal offence, done in any quarter of the day (or night) he should be punished equally.
A probable reason, I think may be, person gets benefit of the darkness and unpeopled or lonely places. But again then other crimes also have benefit of such circumstances. Not much depends on it. Just found it to be interesting and worth sharing.