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Mischief and its legal logic (back when)

Mischief, despite the modern aura of fun that the word has acquired, can be a serious matter. A book called A penal code prepared by the Indian law commissioners, and published by command of the governor general of India in council (Bengal Military Orphan Press, 1837), explores some of the legal logical that applied then and there, and in part applies here and now (wherever here is for you) to mischief. It begins:

Of Mischief.

399. Whoever causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property, or in the situation of any property, as destroys or diminishes the value of such property, intending thereby to cause wrongful loss to any party, is said, except in the case hereinafter excepted, to commit “mischief.”

Explanation. A person may commit mischief on his own property.

Exception. Nothing is mischief which a person does openly, and with the intention in good faith of thereby saving any person from death or hurt, or of thereby preventing a greater loss of property than that which he occasions….

The book gives several pages of examples of what was to be considered mischief, and what was not.


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