Theft

Bonafide claim as defence

Ordinary rule that mens rea may exist even with an honest ignorance of law is sometimes not sufficient for theft. A claim of right in good faith, if reasonable, saves the act of taking from being theft and where such a plea is raised by the accused it is mainly a question of fact whether such belief exists or not. A bona fide claim of right exists, it can be a good defence to a prosecution for theft. An act does not amount to theft, unless there be not only no legal right but no appearance or colour of a legal right. By the expression “colour of a legal right” is meant not a false pretence but a fair pretence, not a complete absence of claim but a bona fide claim, however weak. (See Chandi Kumar Das Karmarkar v. Abanidhar Roy, 1965(1) CrLJ 496: AIR 1965 SC 585: 1964 All LJ 66: 1964 (1) Ker LR 123: 1964 MadLJ (Cri) 238)

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