Mere possession of stolen property is not enough to make it a culpable offense and the prosecution must prove that the accused knew it was stolen property, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
A bench consisting of Judges KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy overturned the conviction, two-year prison term and 1,000 rupees fine imposed on a man named Shiv Kumar for the offense of dishonest receiving of stolen property under of the CPI. The bench dealt in detail with the ingredients of Article 411 of the CPI which deals with the offense of dishonest receiving of stolen property and provides for the penalty of imprisonment for either a term of up to three years, either with a fine or both. “To establish that a person is dealing with stolen property, the person’s ‘belief’ factor is of paramount importance. For a successful prosecution, it is not enough to prove that the defendant was negligent or that he had reason to believe that the property was stolen, or that he did not do enough research. to understand the nature of the property he has acquired.
“The original possession of the property in question may not be illegal, but detaining those who know it is stolen property makes them guilty,” Judge Roy said, writing the judgment. Referring to the facts of the case, the panel said that in applying the legal proposition, it came to the inevitable conclusion that the prosecution failed to establish that the convicted person had knowledge that the items seized from his possession are stolen goods. It was alleged that Shiv Kumar received stolen items, including utensils, and sold them from his own shop in Madhya Pradesh.
“The fact of selling utensils at a lower price cannot, in itself, lead to the conclusion that the appellant knew of the theft of these items. The essential ingredient of mens rea (criminal intent) is clearly not established for the prosecution under Article 411 of the ICC,” he said.
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