A case of mischief under Section 425, I.P.C. and criminal trespass under Section 441, I.P.C., are essentially governed with a criminal intent to cause wrongful loss or damage to person, or a criminal intent to commit any offence, to intimidate any person in possession of a property. If facts are made out indicating a bona fide exercise of a civil right and no criminal intent can be proved, the two offences cannot be brought home.
The essential ingredients of mischief are as follows—
(1) Intention or knowledge of the likelihood to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person.
(2) Causing the destruction of some property or any change in it or in its situation; and
(3) Such destruction or change must destroy or diminish its value.
Mischief requires the intention of a person to cause wrongful loss or damage to general public or any person. Mischief may also be created by a person with change of situation of property with intention to injure to another person.
In the case of Nagendra Nath Roy v. Bijoy Kumar Das Verma, the Court held that mere negligence is not mischief. Negligence followed with intention to cause wrongful loss or damage will amount to mischief.
The offence of mischief may be committed with reference to both movable as well as immovable property. But in cases of movables when the offences of grave nature say theft, robbery, extortion etc. are committed, there would be little scope for application of mischief. Mayne says, “thus one who has stolen a sheep cannot be charged with mischief if he has changed the sheep into mutton by killing it”.
Explanation 1 and Illustrations (e) and (f) make it clear that it is not necessary that property destroyed should belong to the person injuriously affected.
According to Explanation 2 and Illustrations (b) and (g), a person who destroys his own property, with the intention of causing or knowing that it is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to anybody else is guilty of mischief.
(i) A landlord cuts off the electric connection of his tenant with a pair of scissors in the presence of his wife as the tenant had refused to pay the enhanced electric charges demanded by him. The landlord and his wife both were tried under Section 429 and convicted of the same.
The Supreme Court held that the cutting off of the electric connection, which was done was with the intention of causing wrongful loss to the opposite parties and the same had resulted in causing such destruction of the property or such change in the property or diminution in its value or utility so as to clearly come within the definition of Section 425.
(ii) X, by removing bricks from the wall of a mosque on both sides caused wrongful loss to the Mohammedan public and, therefore, committed an offence of mischief.
(iii) The accused installed an oil engine on his property and his neighbour complained that his property was damaged by reason of vibrations from the engine. The Court held that the offence of mischief was not committed.
(iv) Where an accused trespasses into an educational institution, burns its records and books, threatens its staff with evil consequences and puts a bomb therein, the object obviously is to create a scare so that neither the teaching staff nor the pupils would dare to attend it for prosecution of studies. These acts constitute not merely mischief under Section 425 but also constitute mischief which would disturb public order.