Difference Between Theft and Extortion

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Property-related offences hold significant importance. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) delves into these matters in Chapter XVII, encompassing Sections 378 to 462. Among these offences, Theft and extortion are distinctive and intriguing acts. 

While both involve property, the fundamental differences between Theft and extortion lie in consent and the methods employed to acquire the property. Theft revolves around the unauthorised taking of someone’s property without their consent, while extortion relies on intimidation and threats to coerce the victim into cooperation. 

What is the Difference Between Theft and Extortion?

Definition of Theft and Extortion


According to Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code, Theft is considered a crime against property, defined as the dishonest removal of movable property from someone’s possession without their consent. While Theft can lead to unfair losses for the owner, it does not become a charitable act if the stolen goods are shared with the public for the purpose of promoting public benefit. 

The key factor that qualifies an act as Theft is the intentional and dishonest removal of movable property without consent, regardless of any good intentions or perceived entitlement.

Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code states that Theft occurs when someone intends to dishonestly take movable property from another person’s possession without their consent. The section also clarifies that not everything attached to the ground can be stolen, but once something is severed from the earth, it becomes susceptible to Theft.

 It is crucial to note that either explicit or implicit consent can be considered in the definition of Theft. However, if someone takes something from another person without permission but genuinely believes they are entitled to it, it does not constitute Theft.


  • Rahul committed Theft when he visited Ajay’s residence, liked his watch and stole it with a dishonest and malicious purpose.
  • Hemant is liable for criminal misappropriation when he found a gold ring on the ground, couldn’t locate the owner and sold it to his colleague’s business. Even though he didn’t commit the crime of Theft, his actions of taking and selling the ring without the owner’s permission amount to criminal misappropriation.


Extortion, as defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is a theft-related offence. It involves using threats and coercion to force a person or organisation to provide goods, money or services without the victim needing to receive anything in return. 

The perpetrator may demand that the victim give money, goods or services to someone else. The key element of extortion is instilling fear in the victim of immediate harm, injury or wrongful restraint to obtain valuable assets such as cash, property or services.

According to Section 383 of the IPC:

“Extortion is the act of dishonestly inducing any person to transfer property, valuable security or anything that can be transformed into a valuable security to another person by deliberately causing fear of harm to themselves or others.”

For example, if person B fails to give person A Rs. 1 crore on A’s birthday and A threatens to harm B’s wife, this situation would be considered extortion.

The main objective of Section 383 is to procure the delivery of property or valuable objects through fraudulent inducement. Central to the concept of extortion is the unjust intention to harm one person while benefiting another.

Illustrations of the offence of extortion:

  • A threatens s with the intention of extorting money from s. A’s threat involves publishing false and damaging information about s. As a result of the threat, s gives money to A. A has committed extortion.
  • A threatens s by stating that unless s signs and delivers a promissory note to A, promising to pay specific sums of money, A will wrongfully confine s’s child. s, out of fear, delivers and signs the promissory note. A has engaged in extortion.

Essentials of Theft and Extortion


Theft has specific prerequisites that must be met for the offence to occur:

  • Dishonest intention: The perpetrator must have a dishonest intention to commit Theft. This means acting in a way that causes harm to someone else. Dishonest intention involves wrongful gain or wrongful loss, where the person gains property illegally or incurs a loss through illegal means. It is also referred to as malafide intention. Simply taking someone else’s property while pretending it is your own does not qualify as Theft.
  • Movable property: The property that is the subject of Theft must be movable in nature. Immovable property attached to the ground does not fall under Theft unless it is severed or cut off from the earth.
  • Removal from possession: The property must be taken from another person’s possession. If someone already has legal possession or ownership of the property, taking it from them would not be considered Theft.
  • Without permission: The property must be taken without the consent of the person who possesses it. If the owner or possessor willingly gives permission, it is not Theft.
  • Act of taking: Some action must be involved in taking the property. The property must be moved or taken in some way for the Theft to occur.

In the case of M/s Shriram Transport Finance Co., Ltd. v. R. Khaishiullah Khan (1992), the Court clarified that the seizure of property by a financer after a default on a hire purchase agreement does not constitute Theft because the financer has the right to do so.

In the case of Venkat Narayan v. State (1976), the Court stated that if the dishonest purpose is absent in a situation, it cannot be considered a theft. Evidence of dishonest intent is necessary to establish someone’s guilt in a theft case.


The prerequisites for extortion are as follows:

  • Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury: Extortion involves deliberately causing fear in the victim of immediate injury, death or wrongful restraint. If the victim is threatened at the time of the crime, leading to fear of immediate harm, it is considered robbery. However, extortion does not necessarily require the presence of the individual delivering the property during the act.
  • Intention: The offender must have the intention to commit extortion, which involves using threats to induce the victim to give up property or valuable security.
  • Delivery of property or valuable security: The ultimate goal of extortion is to obtain property or valuable security from the victim as a result of the threat made.

For an act to be considered extortion, the threat must involve disturbing the victim’s state of mind to the extent that it eliminates their free will and ability to provide consent. The threat of harm can extend beyond physical harm and include harm to the victim’s possessions, reputation or mental health.

According to Section 44 of the Indian Penal Code, “injury” is defined as any unlawful harm caused to a person’s body, mind, reputation or property. Threats of divine punishment do not qualify as the harm contemplated under extortion; it must be something that the accused can cause to be inflicted themselves.

Punishment for Theft and Extortion


The penalties for theft offences are outlined in Sections 379 to 382 of the Indian Penal Code. Depending on the Theft’s circumstances, different punishments are prescribed.

Punishment for Theft (Section 379): The punishment for the crime of Theft is imprisonment for a term that may extend up to three years or a fine or both.

Punishment for Theft in certain advancing situations:

  • Theft in Dwelling Houses (Section 380): If someone commits Theft in a building or vessel used as a place of accommodation for people or as a storage facility for property, they will be sentenced to imprisonment for a term that may exceed seven years and a fine may also be imposed. “Dwelling house” includes any structure used as a place to live, temporarily or permanently, such as a house or a railway waiting room.
  • Theft by Servant (Section 381): If a servant or clerk steals something that belongs to their employer or master while it is in their possession, they will be punished with imprisonment for a term that may last up to seven years and a fine may be imposed.
  • Theft after making preparations to cause death, injury or restraint (Section 382): Anyone who commits Theft while planning to cause harm, restraint or escape after committing the Theft or to retain the stolen property will face rigorous imprisonment for up to ten years and may also be fined.


The penalties for extortion vary depending on the severity and nature of the offence, as outlined in different sections of the Indian Penal Code:

  • Section 384: The general penalty for extortion is a minimum of three years in prison, a fine or both.
  • Section 385: If someone attempts to put another person in fear of harm with the intention of committing extortion, the penalty could be up to two years in prison, a fine or both. This section deals with the preparation for extortion.
  • Section 386: When extortion is committed by instilling fear of death or severe injury, the punishment includes imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine or both. This is a more severe form of extortion.
  • Section 387: This section addresses extortion by putting someone in fear of grievous hurt or death, and the penalty includes imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine.
  • Section 388: If someone threatens another person with false accusations of a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment to extort them, they may face a life sentence or the death penalty.
  • Section 389 deals with attempted extortion by threatening to accuse someone of a crime, and it carries a life sentence or the death penalty.

These various sections of the Indian Penal Code account for different degrees and circumstances of extortion, and the penalties imposed correspond to the severity of the offence committed.

Classification of Offences


  • Cognizable: This means that the police have the authority to arrest the accused without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a theft offence has been committed.
  • Non-bailable: This means that a person accused of Theft cannot be released on bail as a matter of right. Bail can be granted at the discretion of the court, but it is not an automatic entitlement.
  • Triable by any magistrate: The case of Theft can be heard and decided by any magistrate, irrespective of their jurisdiction.


  • Triable by any magistrate: Extortion cases can be tried and adjudicated by any magistrate, regardless of their jurisdiction.
  • Non-bailable: Similar to Theft, extortion is a non-bailable offence, and bail can be granted at the court’s discretion.
  • Compoundable: Unlike Theft, extortion is a compoundable offence, which means that the victim and the accused can reach a compromise, and the victim can withdraw the case with the permission of the court.

Difference Between Theft and Extortion

Both theft and extortion are crimes against property but they differ in various aspects. Here are points of difference between Theft and extortion:

  • Definition: Theft involves dishonestly taking someone’s movable property without their consent, with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. On the other hand, extortion is the act of obtaining property, money or services from someone by using threats, coercion or intimidation.
  • Nature: Theft is a crime against property, while extortion is a crime against property rights and personal liberty.
  • Type of Property: In Theft, movable properties are subjected to Theft, while in extortion, the victim can deliver both movable and immovable properties to avoid the harm that may be inflicted upon them.
  • Consent: In Theft, the victim does not consent to taking their property. In extortion, the victim may give up their property or valuables, but it is done under duress or fear of harm.
  • Intent: The intent of Theft is to dishonestly take and permanently deprive the owner of their property. In extortion, the intent is to obtain property or valuables through fear or intimidation.
  • Presence of Threat: Theft does not involve any threats or coercion towards the victim. In contrast, extortion relies on the use of threats or intimidation to force the victim into compliance.
  • Subject Matter: Theft is limited to the taking of movable property only. In contrast, extortion can involve the taking of both movable and immovable property.
  • Number of Offenders: Theft can be committed by one person acting alone. On the other hand, extortion can be committed by one or more persons acting together.
  • Force: Theft does not involve the use of force or compulsion. However, in extortion, force or compulsion exists as the victim is put in fear of injury to themselves or others.
  • Element of Fear: In Theft, the element of fear is absent; the act is committed without instilling fear in the victim. In extortion, the element of fear is present, and the perpetrator uses threats or coercion to induce compliance.
  • Delivery of Property: In Theft, the victim is not required to deliver the property voluntarily. However, in extortion, the victim delivers the property or valuables to avoid the harm threatened upon them.
  • Punishment: Both Theft and extortion are punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to 3 years or with a fine or with both, as per the respective sections of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Relationship: Theft is usually an isolated act where the perpetrator has no specific relationship with the victim. In extortion, the perpetrator often targets someone they know or have a connection with.
  • Level of Harm: In Theft, the primary harm is the loss of property. In extortion, the harm extends beyond property loss, as the victim experiences fear, psychological distress and potential harm.
  • Criminal Elements: Theft requires the act of taking the property without consent. At the same time, extortion includes the additional element of threats or coercion to induce the victim to comply with the perpetrator’s demands.

Key Differences Between Theft and Extortion

Here’s a table summarising all the differences between theft and extortion:

ConsentMovable property taken without consent of ownerConsent obtained wrongfully by coercion
Subject MatterLimited to movable property onlyCan involve movable or immovable property
Number of OffendersCan be committed by one personCan be committed by one or more persons
ForceNo element of force or compulsionInvolves force or compulsion
Element of FearElement of fear is absentElement of fear is present
Delivery of PropertyNo delivery of property by the victimVictim delivers property or valuables
PunishmentImprisonment for up to 3 years or fine or both (Section 379)Imprisonment for up to 3 years or fine or both (Section 384)
ExampleA person who is s’s servant and whom s has entrusted with the safekeeping of s’s plate dishonestly steals the plate without s’s permission. A is guilty of theft.If s does not donate money to A, A threatens to publish a false statement about s. As a result, he convinces s to give him money. A has committed extortion.
Involvement of FearFear is not an essential elementFear is a crucial element
ThreatsNo use of threatsInvolves the use of threats
ObjectiveTo permanently deprive the owner of the propertyTo obtain property, money or services through coercion or threats
RelationshipUsually an isolated act with no specific relationship between the partiesPerpetrator often targets someone they know or have a connection with
Exception of Good FaithThere is an exception of good faithNo exception of good faith
Immovable PropertyLimited to movable propertyCan involve both movable and immovable property
CoercionNo coercion involvedInvolves coercion or intimidation
Presence of ApprehensionNo apprehension or threat in the mind of the property holderApprehension or threat present
BailNon-bailableNon-bailable and compoundable


The differences between theft and extortion are significant. Theft involves dishonestly taking movable property without the owner’s consent, while extortion entails obtaining property, money or services through coercion and threats. The intent, presence of fear, delivery of property, involvement of force and the element of consent differ between the two offences. 

Theft is an isolated act without the use of force or fear, while extortion relies on intimidation to induce compliance. Additionally, extortion can involve both movable and immovable property, whereas theft is limited to movable property.

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