This post has been written by Parishkriti Atri, a first year law student pursuing LL.B. (H) from Amity Law School, Noida.
WHAT IS TRUST?
It is a fiduciary relationship in which one party, known as a trustor, gives another party, the trustee, the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary. Trusts are established to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets. The entrustment of the property creates trust, and that is only an obligation annexed to the ownership of property, which has been rising out of confidence.
CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST
Section 405 of IPC defines Criminal breach of trust.
Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or wilfully suffers any other person so to do, commits “criminal breach of trust”.
ESSENTIALS OF CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST
- The accused must be entrusted with property or dominion over it.
- The accused must have dishonestly misappropriated the property or converted it to his own use or disposed of it in violation of such trust.
The expression ‘entrusted with property’ or ‘with any dominion over property’ includes all cases where goods are entrusted. This means that goods are handled of free consent and willingly for a competition of certain purpose but has been used otherwise, i.e. for the benefit of the entrusted person wrongfully.
Misappropriation of property or converting someone else’s property into own use is an offence covered under criminal misappropriation under section 403 of IPC. The difference is entrustment; So to commit this offence, one must have access and control over the entrusted property only then it can be violated, disposed or converted into own use.
The offence is non-cognizable, bailable and triable by a judicial magistrate of the first class.
Criminal breach of trust can only be committed if the property is of someone else and not the accused and is also not such property from where the accused is having a beneficial interest. In a case of pledge, the goods pledged is of some other person kept in trust of the person to whom it is pledged.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST?
Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code describes the punishment for criminal breach of trust as imprisonment which may extend up to 3 years which may or may not be combined with fine. It is compoundable by the owner of the property in respect of which breach of trust has been committed, with the permission of the court and is triable by the magistrate of the first class.
TYPES OF BREACH OF TRUST
There are further aggravated forms of criminal breach of trust available in IPC which are-
Section 407 of IPC states that when a person is entrusted with a property as a carrier, warehouse keeper or wharfinger commits criminal breach of trust; it is punishable with a jail term of up to seven years which shall also be combined with fine.
Section 408 states that when a clerk or servant who is entrusted with the property or any dominion over the property in such capacity, commits criminal breach of trust in respect to that property, is punishable with a jail term of up to seven years which shall also be combined with fine.
Section 409 states that when a public servant or banker or merchant or agent who is entrusted with the property or any dominion over the property in such capacity, commits a criminal breach of trust in respect to that property, he is punishable with imprisonment for life or a jail term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IMPORTANT CASE LAWS RELATED TO CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST?
Jaswant Rai Manilal Akhaney vs State of Bombay
In this case it was held that when securities are pledged with a bank for specific purpose on specified conditions, it would amount to entrustment. Similarly, properties entrusted to directors of a company would amount to entrustment, because directors are to some extent in a position of trustee. However, when money was paid as illegal gratification, there was no question of entrustment.
State of UP vs Babu Ram
The accused, a sub-inspector (SI) of police, had gone to investigate a theft case in a village. In the evening, he saw one person named Tika Ram coming from the side of the canal and hurriedly going towards a field. He appeared to be carrying something in his dhoti folds. The accused searched him and found a bundle containing currency notes. The accused took the bundle and later returned it. The amount returned was short by Rs. 250. The Supreme Court held that the currency notes were handed over to the SI for a particular purpose and Tika Ram had trusted the accused to return the money once the accused satisfied himself about it. If the accused had taken the currency notes, it would amount to a criminal breach of trust.
Rashmi Kumar vs Mahesh Kumar Bhada
Supreme Court held that when the wife entrusts her stridhana property with the dominion over that property to her husband or any other member of the family and the husband or such other member of the family dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or wilfully suffers any other person to do so, he commits criminal breach of trust. Even failure to handover marriage gifts and ornaments received from in laws to the wife on being driven out amounts to criminal breach of trust. Taking away such gifts and cash offerings from her by in laws also amounts to misappropriation.
Criminal breach of trust is a very common offence today. It can happen on a normal day in a common man’s life. Its presence can be traced everywhere, from your corporate offices to marriage rituals.
One should be having confidence in the person one is handing over the property to. Property can be both movable as well as immovable. To bring up on the charge of criminal breach of trust there should be a dishonest intention to misappropriate with an authorised use.
People should be educated about such crimes that are so common these days and they should be made aware of laws regarding the same. The advantage of this provision is that the section is satisfactory in itself. However, proper implementation is required of the same.
Image Source: Here
1) Kagan, Julia, Trust, Investopedia, (April 5, 2020) https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trust.asp
2) EADigest, criminal law, Indian advocacy, https://easyadvocacy.com/article/Criminal-Breach-of-Trust-and-Punishment-for-it-in-the-IPC
3) criminal breach of trust, Lego Desk, https://legodesk.com/legopedia/criminal-breach-of-trust/amp/
4) Trigunayat, Samarth, criminal breach of trust, law octopus, (August 21,2014) https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/criminal-breach-trust/
5) Jain, Divi, section 405 criminal breach of trust, legal services India, http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/crbt.htm