Summary of Landmark judgment

Case: K.N Mehra v. State of Rajasthan, 1957 AIR 369

Date of Order / Judgment: 11th February, 1957

The Matter Heard by Bench: Justice Jagannadhadas, Justice B.Imam, Justice Syed JafferMenon & Justice P. Govinda


In this case, Mehra and Phillips were cadets on training in the Indian Air Force Academy, Jodhpur. On the day of alleged theft, Phillips was due to leave Jodhpur by train in view of his discharge. Mehra was due for flight in a Dakota as part of his training along 625 with a flying cadet, Om Prakash. Mehra and Phillips took off, not a Dakota, but a Harvard H.T. 822. This was done before the prescribed time without authorisation and without observing any of the formalities, which are prerequisites for an aircraft-flight. On the same day they landed at a place in Pakistan about 100 miles away from the Indo-Pakistan border.

A Military Adviser to the Indian High Commissioner, J. C. Kapoor in Pakistan at Karachi, was contacted by Mehra and Phillips in person and informed him that they had lost their way and force-landed in a field and that they left the plane there. Kapoor made arrangements for both of them being sent back to Delhi in an Indian National Airways plane and also arranged for the Harvard aircraft being sent away to Jodhpur. While they were on their return to Delhi, the plane was stopped at Jodhpur and both were arrested.

The appellant, K. N. Mehra, and M. Z. Phillips both were convicted under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code. The conviction and sentence against them have been confirmed on appeal by the Sessions Judge and on revision by the High Court. Aggrieved by this decision, a Special Leave Petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the Appellant i.e. K.N Mehra.


Whether the appellant's actions constituted the offence of theft as under section 378 of the Indian Penal Code?


The Court observed that the commission of theft requires:

  • a) the absence of the person's consent at the time of moving the property
  • b) the presence of dishonest intention at that time


The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and held that the conviction of the Appellant under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code was justified.