Criminal Breach of Trust (commonly known as CBT) is prescribed under Section 405 of the Penal Code. The section provides:
405. Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or wilfully suffers any other person to do so, commits “criminal breach of trust”.
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However following Section 406 to 409 of the Penal Code, there are many different forms of Criminal Breach of Trust each with increasing severity and punishment.
This is known as the Criminal Breach of Trust simpliciter which is the least serious form of Criminal Breach of Trust amongst the rest. This attracts an imprisonment term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with both.
Under this aggravated form of Criminal Breach of Trust, the accused is entrusted with property as a carrier, wharfinger or warehouse keeper. This attracts an imprisonment term which may extend to 15 years and a fine.
Accused who are employed as a clerk or servant who commits Criminal Breach of Trust will usually face charges under this section. This offence also attracts an imprisonment term which may extend to 15 years and a fine.
This is the most serious form of Criminal Breach of Trust where the accused is a public servant, or in the way of his business a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent. This offence also attracts an imprisonment term which may extend to 20 years and a fine.
So what amounts to Criminal Breach of Trust?
1. Entrustment: As prescribed under the section, there must be an element of entrustment with the property. If, for example, the accused was given the property to keep and use as he sees fit, there cannot be said to be entrustment.
2. Dishonestly misappropriates or converts: The accused must dishonestly misappropriate or convert the property for his own use. Keeping the property will usually amount to misappropriation. Also, note that all misappropriation and conversion must be done with a dishonest intent. Look at section 24 of the Penal code for a definition of “dishonest”.
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