Mischief is defined in Section 425 and of the Indian Penal Code. Section 426 prescribes the punishment thereof. Section 427 to 440, in which gravity of the offense is aggravated owing to the greater value of wrongful loss or damage of the property than in ordinary cases of mischief. In a common man understanding mischief is interfering with a person from the enjoyment of their property by making demolition of the property in one way or the other. In mischief is done with the intentionally causing wrongful damage of loss to the public or any person.
Mischief under IPC
According to IPC section 425 Mischief is “Whoever with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property or 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 offense 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 into 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, intending to thereby cause wrongful loss to Z. A has committed mischief.
A, knowing that his effects are about to be taken in execution to satisfy a debt due from him to Z, destroys those effects, intending to thereby prevent 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
Intention / Knowledge to Cause Wrongful Loss or Damage to the general public and person
According to section 425, Mischief requires the intention of a person to cause wrongful loss or damage to the general public or any person or criminal intent to commit any offense. Mischief may also be created by a person with a change of situation of a property with the intention to injure another person. Like other offenses Mens rea is the most important element of any act to establishing mischief. The other essential is that accused should have an intention or knowledge of causing damage to any property or wrongful loss to any person. The intention of causing damage or wrongful loss alone is enough to constitute mischief. The act may or may not be directed straight towards the owner of the property. Every act in order to fall under the ambit of the definition of mischief is not criminal unless there is an element of “mens rea”. Mischief involves a mental activity with a destructive animus.
Krishna Gopal Singh and Ors. vs the State Of U.P.:- In this case it was held that the offense of mischief would not be committed if the accused has not committed an act with the intent to cause wrongful loss or damage to any person or the public at large. It also implies that acts done under any pressure, without the free consent of the accused, do not come under the ambit of mischief.
Wrongful Damage or loss
The essential Mens reus while committing mischief should be directed towards causing ‘destruction to the property’, ‘damage’ or ‘wrongful loss’ to the public or person which will constitute the actus reus for the offense of mischief. In mischief the intention of the accuser can be that of causing wrongful loss or damage to any person.
For example- tearing off some important documents relating to property or finances.
R. Gandhi vs. Union Of India: – In this case, Supreme court held that When a person conies to us with the complaint that he has been arrested and imprisoned with mischievous or malicious intent and that his constitutional and legal rights were invaded, the mischief or malice and the invasion may not be washed away or wished away by his being set free. Inappropriate cases we have the jurisdiction to compensate the victim by awarding suitable monetary compensation.
Causing Destruction of Any Property or Any Change in It
To constitute the mischief it is important that the damage should be a direct consequence of the alleged act. Mischief can also be caused by causing destruction or changes in any property. Which affects the body or meaning of the things like- changing the words of a speech or intentionally destroying something owned by somebody.
Destroys or Diminishes Value or Utility
The third important essential is decreasing the value of something .for example intentionally misplacing important files and utility of the property to be an immediate or proximate consequence of the alleged act of the accused.
Indian Oil Corporation v. NEPC India Ltd  :-. In this case the defendant removed the engines of the aircraft hence diminishing its utility and rendering it useless. It was held that the damage caused satisfied all elements of mischief and thus the offense of mischief was constituted. And Court also observed that for the purpose of Section 425, ownership or possession of the property is not relevant. Even if the property belongs to the accused himself, if the ingredients are made out, mischief is committed, as is evident from illustrations (d) and (e) to Section 425.
Punishment for Mischief
Punishment for the offense of Mischief has been prescribed under Section 426 with imprisonment which may extend to a term of 3 months or with fine or with both imprisonment and fine. But this does not apply to all cases if mischief. Like aggravated forms, the punishment has been prescribed in the further sections.
The Aggravated Forms of Mischief
Based on the nature of the property damage
Whoever commits mischief and thereby causes loss or damage to the amount of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both
Mischief by killing or maiming cattle or any animal value of ten rupees or more
Section 428 to Section 434 of IPC deals with, Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both .the intention of the legislature here is to stop the cruelty to animals as a result of which cruelty is caused to the owner her the word ‘animal’ means ‘any living creature other than a human being’and ‘Maiming’ does not mean causing wounds or temporary injuries. It has to be an injury of permanently which affecting the use of a limb or other members of the body.
Mischief by Killing or Maiming Cattle
According to Section 429 of IPC, for killing or maiming of ‘cattle’ which refers to an animal used for commercial purposes. This section tries to analyze the intent and motive behind any crime and thus it is assumed in this section that the accuser had the intention of maiming or killing the cattle with a motive to cause wrongful loss to the owner and the person Shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may be extended for five years, a fine or both.
Section 430 deals with the punishment for causing damage to the works of irrigation and rendering it useless or wrongfully diverting it to cause mischief. aims of this section are to prevent any sort of disturbance in the supply of water used for commercial purposes such as agriculture, manufacturing or essential needs such as drinking and storage shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
Mischief by Injuring Public Road, Bridge, River or Channel
According to section 431 of IPC says that any person who commits mischief by doing damage to any public road, bridge, navigable river or navigable channel, natural or artificial, impassable or less safe for traveling or conveying property bridge, river or channel and rendering it useless or any less safe for traveling or conveying property.
It assumes that the intention of the accuser to cause wrongful loss to the public at large by destroying or diminishing the value of the property, punishment of section 431 states, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
· Mischief by Obstructing Public Drainage attended with damage
IPC Section 432 deals with the person who done any act which causes or which he knows to be likely to cause an inundation or an obstruction to any public drainage attended with injury or damage It caters to the idea of causing destruction of the property and affecting the public at large for the sole purpose of mischief. The person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
Mischief by Destroying of Lighthouse or Seamark
According to Section 432 deals, a person who commits mischief by destruction or disturbance any light-house or other light used as a sea-mark or any sea-mark or buoy or other thing placed as a guide for navigators. It takes into account the intention of misguiding the navigators as a part of mischief by either destroying or moving any sea mark in a way that renders it useless or diminishes its use. The punishment in this section is extended to imprisonment for a term with extension to seven years, fine or both. The increase of the punishment is due to the possibility of huge commercial or personal loss caused due to the mischief.
Mischief by Destroying of Landmark fixed by public authority
Section 434 of IPC deals with the person who commits mischief by destroying or moving any land-mark fixed by the authority of a public servant, or by any act which renders such land-mark less useful as such, shall be punished. It is a similar category as above, the only difference being the damage of landmarks instead of sea marks. in this case would be less as compared to that of damaging sea marks. And the punishment in this section is reduced to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year only, a fine or both. The landmark destroyed or diminished should be important and should have been fixed by the authority of a public servant.
Mischief based upon the method adopted to cause damage: offenses of Arson
From Section 435 to Section 438 deals with aggravated forms of mischief based upon the method adopted to cause damage. These sections are collectively termed as ‘offenses of arson’ which defined as the willful and malicious burning or charring of property. Damaging the property amounting to hundred rupees and above by fire or explosive substances. In the case of agricultural produce, the damage caused by amounting to ten rupees and above is punishable. The person shall be punished imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and a fine.
In IPC there are 15 sections in all but still doesn’t include all possibilities of the crime itself. It just mentions the definition which is then followed by some scenarios in which ‘mischief’ is punished as a crime. In These few scenarios, mentioned in the IPC, do not suffice the wide possibilities of acts that can be charged with mischief, due to which major cases involving any acts of mischief, which are nowhere mentioned in the IPC, depend upon the discretion of the courts for establishment and punishment of the crime. Thus, it can be inferred that ‘mischief’ as a crime does not have a very solid hold of the procedural law and needs to be detailed further. Hence, a good reform under this section would be to elaborate further upon the acts which could in any possibility constitute mischief