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THE OFFENCE OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY IN INDIA: A Study

INDIAN PENAL CODE – 4.4

FACULTY IN CHARGE
MS. NIKITA BAROOAH
(Adjunct Faculty of Law)

SUBMITTED BY-

TRIPTI KEJRIWAL

(SF0117056)

(Second Year, Fourth Semester)

NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY AND JUDICIAL ACADEMY, ASSAM

6th May, 2019

1
TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. LIST OF CASES..................................................................................................................3

2. LIST OF STATUTES............................................................................................................4

3. TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS...........................................................................................4

4. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES....................................................................................................5

5. NATURE OF PROJECT........................................................................................................5

6. SOURCE OF DATA..............................................................................................................5

7. SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS...............................................................................................5

8. REVIEW OF LITERATURE ................................................................................................6

9. RESEARCH QUESTIONS....................................................................................................6

10. INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................8

11. CONCEPTUALIZING CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY.........................................................9

12. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE LAW OF CONSPIRACY IN INDIA............10

13. INGREDIENTS OF SECTION 120A, INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860............................12

14. NATURE AND SCOPE OF SECTION 120A OF INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860..........14

15. PUNISHMENT OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY.............................................................17

16. NATURE AND SCOPE OF SECTION 120B OF INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860..........18

17. CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................19

18. BIBLIOGRAPHY..............................................................................................................21

2
TABLE OF CASES

SL.NO CASES CITATION


1. Ajay Agarwal v. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 1637, (1993) Cr
LJ 2516
2. BC Barsay v. State of Bombay AIR 1961 S 1762, (1961) 2 Cr
LJ 828 (SO).
3. Bimbadhar Pradhan v.State of Orissa AIR 1956 SC 469, (1956) Cr LJ
831 (SC)
4. Devender Pal Singh v. State (NCT of (2002) 6 SCC 234, AIR 2002
Delhi) & Anr SC 1661

5. E.G. Barsay v. State of Bombay AIR 1961 SC 1762


6. Fakhruddin v. State Madhya Pradesh AIR 1967 SC 1326, (1967) Cr
Id 1197 (SC).
7. KR Puroshbothaman v. State of Kerala 2005 Indlaw SC 011
8. Mir Nagvi Askari v. Central Bureau of (2009) 15 SCC 643
Investigation
9. Mohd Hussain Umar Kachra v. KS Dalip AIR 1970 SC 45
Singhji
10. Mohd Khalid v. State of West Bengal (2002) 7 SOC 334.

11. Mulcahy v. R. (1868) LR 3 HL 306


12. Nand Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar AIR 1992 SC 1939
13. Nazir KJ and Ors v. State of Delhi (2003) 8SCC 461
14. Noor Mohammad Mohd. Yusuf Momin v. AIR 1971 SC 885
State of Maharashtra
15. Quinn v. Leatham (1901)AC 495
16. Ram Narayan Popli v. CBI (2003) 3 SCC 641
17. Rayhuvir Singh v. State of Bihar AIR 1987 SC 149, (1987) Cr LJ
157 (SC)

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18. RK Dalmia v. Delhj Administration AIR 1962 SC 1821
19. State of Himachal Pradesh v. Kishanlal AIR 1987 SC 773, (1987) Cr LJ
Pardhan 709 (SC)
20. State of Maharashtra v. Som Nath Thapa AIR 1996 SC 1744
21. State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini & Ors AIR 1999 SC 2640, (1999) Cr
LI 3124 (SC)
22. State v. Nalini (1999) 5 SCC 253
23. Suresh Chandra Bahri v. State of Bihar AIR 1994 SC 2420, (1994) Cr
Lj 3271 (SC)
24. Yash Pal Mittal v. State of Punjab (1977) 4 SCC 540
25. Yash Pal v. State of Punjab AIR 1977 SC 2433, (1977) 4
SCC 540

LIST OF STATUTES
1. Indian Penal Code, 1860.
2. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
2. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1913.

TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS

¶ Para

¶¶ Paras

AIR All India Reporter

Art. Article

Anr. Another

edn Edition

J. Justice

Ltd. Limited

Ors. Others

4
s Section

ss Sections

SC Supreme Court

SCC Supreme Court Cases

SCR Supreme Court Reporter

UOI Union Of India

UN United Nations

Vol. Volume

v. Versus

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES


The aim of this project is to provide a comprehensive analysis of Criminal Conspiracy. The
project aims at explaining and analyzing the nature of law of conspiracy in Section 120A and
Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

NATURE OF PROJECT
The project is descriptive as well as analytical in nature. However the majority of the project
is descriptive in nature.

SOURCES OF DATA
The sources of data used are mainly secondary in nature. A host of leading textbooks on
Criminal Law as well as case reporters like All India Reporter (A.I.R), Supreme Court Cases
(SCC) etc. have been referred to.

SCOPE AND LIMITATION


The scope of this project is limited to the Criminal Conspiracy in the Indian Criminal system
only. Areas of focus and concentration have been the relevant sections under the Code
dealing with the same.

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REVIEW OF LITERATURE

 Ratanlal and Dhiraj Lal, Law of Crimes, 24th Edition, Vol. 1:


The Criminal law in India provides the legislative framework for smooth running and
progress of the society in India. This book narrates a very well portrays a comprehensive
view of the substantive law crimes of India and the provisions which attracts the same. It also
puts forth the recent judicial pronouncements and developments that have taken place due to
the ground realities of certain crimes taking shape in the society at large in the present times.
In this light, the paper throws light on the relevant provisions relating to criminal conspiracy
in Indian criminal law as well as judicial attitude towards this concept.

• PSA Pillai’s, Criminal Law, 11th Edition (2012), LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa,
Nagpur:
This book systematically and clearly provides an in – depth analysis of all the categories of
offences incorporated in the Indian Penal Code. It highlights the emerging trends in the field
of criminal law. This book extensively provides a vision of the law of conspiracy in India,
from the historical background to the contemporary changes and developments enshrined in
the same concept. It also offers a critical analysis of the reforms that have been proposed by
the various bodies.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1) What is Criminal Conspiracy and the history of Law of Conspiracy in India?


2) What is the nature and scope of Law of Conspiracy in Section 120A of the Indian Penal
Code, 1860?
3) What is the nature and scope of Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860?

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ABSTRACT

The gradual evolution of the law of conspiracy, its widened scope and general application
can be traced in close association with the law of principal and accessory. At Common law,
Conspiracy had its origin primarily as a civil wrong. It was originally used to explain the
acts of agreement of those who combined to carry on legal proceedings in a vexatious or
improper way. Lately, the crime of criminal conspiracy was made punishable as a criminal
wrong. In a context of burgeoning crime and politically motivated offences over the last few
decades, one of the branches of criminal law which has witnessed great challenges and
consequently more expansion of law, has been principles governing law of conspiracy. This
paper aims at presenting criminal law offences to target organised crime as established by
criminal law. Author tries to trace the widened scope of the law of conspiracy involving its
history and contemporary times. This research paper also deals with the concept of the
criminal conspiracy along with the punishment involved highlighting the provisions of law
concerned with the same. The paper concludes by calling for a comprehensive study to
review the proposals of reform and also by bringing forth the difficulties put forward by
various jurists in the said crime which might lead to miscarriage of justice.

Keywords: Law of Criminal Conspiracy, Section 120A, Section 120B, Indian Penal
Code, 1860 (IPC).

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INTRODUCTION

Glanville William writes: “If the mere intention of one person to commit a crime is not
criminal, why should the agreement of two people to do it make it criminal? The only
possible reply is that the law (or, if you prefer, the Establishment) is fearful of numbers, and
the act of agreeing to offend is regarded as such a decisive step as to justify its own criminal
sanction.”1

Of the three categories of inchoate crimes, conspiracy is one of the most complicated laws.
The law of conspiracy, actually, may seem somewhat arbitrary.

The provision of criminal conspiracy was inserted in the IPC by virtue of Criminal Law
(Amendment) Act, 1913. The underlying purpose for the insertion of Sections 120A and
120B IPC was to make a mere agreement to do an illegal act or an act which is not illegal by
illegal means punishable under law. The criminal thoughts in the mind when take concrete
shape of an agreement to do or cause to be done an illegal act or an act which is not illegal by
illegal means than even if nothing further is done an agreement is designated as a criminal
conspiracy.

The proviso to Section 120A engrafts a limitation that no agreement except an agreement to
commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the
agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof. By
insertion of Chapter V-A in IPC, the understanding of criminal conspiracy in the Indian
context has become akin to that in England. The illegal act may or may not be done in
pursuance of an agreement but the mere formation of an agreement is an offence and is
punishable.

Sensational cases like the case involving the assassinations of Indira Gandhi, General Vaidya
and Rajiv Gandhi, bribery cases involving prominent politicians, apart from regular criminal
cases involving deliberate planning and execution, have all involved charges of conspiracy as
the core allegation of the prosecution case. The scope and nature of conspiracy and the degree
of proof required to establish the same has been constantly evolving in recent years.

1
Glanville Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law: The General Part, second edn, Stevens & Sons, London, 1983,
Indian Reprint by Universal Publishing, New Delhi, 1999, p 420.

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CONCEPTUALIZING CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY

Definition of Criminal Conspiracy: Section 120 A of the Indian Penal Code 2 defines a
Criminal Conspiracy as: - When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done,-

(1) an illegal act, or

(2) an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal
conspiracy:

Provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a


criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to
such agreement in pursuance thereof.

Explanation- It is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement,
or is merely incidental to that object.”

In Quinn v. Leatham,3 Lord Brampton of the House of Lords had aptly defined conspiracy as:
A conspiracy consists not merely in the intention of two or more, but in the agreement of two
or more, to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. So long as such a
design rests in intention only, it is not indictable. When two agree to carry it into effect, the
very plot is an act in itself, and the act of each of the parties, promise against promise, actus
contra actum, capable of being enforced, if lawful; and punishable if for a criminal object, or
for the use of criminal means’.

In State v. Nalini,4 it has been said that “Acts subsequent to the achieving of the object of
conspiracy may tend to prove that a particular accused was party to the conspiracy. Once the
object of conspiracy has been achieved, any subsequent act, which may be unlawful, would
not make the accused a part of the conspiracy.”

The above mentioned judicial pronouncements crystallize the law on criminal conspiracy as
applicable in India.

2
The Indian Penal code, 1860.
3
(1901) AC 495.
4
(1999) 5 SCC 253.

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Criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a substantive offence in itself and
punishable separately. There have been rare instances where persons have been tried for
commission of the substantive act of criminal conspiracy.

However, most commonly, the charge of criminal conspiracy is slapped on an accused person
along with the charge of a substantive offence under the IPC or any other law which he may
be accused of committing along with other co-conspirators.

Criminal conspiracy is hatched to commit an illegal act which is an offence punishable under
law. It is not essential that the accused person must do an overt act, and mere agreement
between two or more persons to commit an illegal act is sufficient to constitute the offence of
criminal conspiracy. It is also not necessary that the object of the conspiracy should have
been achieved for it to be considered as an offence. Even if the conspiracy fails on account of
abandonment or detection before commission of offence, the very act of entering into an
agreement by the co-conspirators is itself an offence and punishable under the law.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE LAW OF CONSPIRACY IN INDIA

Originally, the IPC contained only two provisions by which conspiracy was made punishable.
First, the provision of s 107, which made conspiracy by way of abetment punishable. The
other was specific provisions involving offences which included conspiracies to commit
them, as for example, in the definition of a thug (s 130), by was belonging to a gang of
dacoits (s 400) or thieves (s 401). In the former, an act or illegal omission had to rake place
in pursuance of conspiracy before they were liable for punishment, whereas in the latter,
membership of a gang of thieves or dacoits was essential to establish the charge of conspiracy
against them. Thus, in the laws, as it is originally existed, some overt act by way of furthering
the object of the conspiracy on the part of the accused was a pre-requisite for imposing
criminal liability against them.

However, in 1868, the English common law on conspiracy was widened with the judgement
of the House of Lords in the well known case of Mulcahy v R. 5 The Mulcahy dictum
introduced the principle in common law that a mere agreement of two or more persons to do
an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means was sufficient to attract liability under

5
(1868) LR 3 HL 306.

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conspiracy, even if no specific overt act had been committed. This development of the law in
England found echo in IPC, which was amended in 1870 by the Indian Penal Code
(Amendment) Act of 1870, in which the law of conspiracy was widened by the insertion of s
121A6 in the IPC, making it an offence to commit any of the offences punishable under s 121.
Under this provision, it was not necessary that any act or omission had actually taken place in
pursuance of the conspiracy. Thus, except in respect of offences specifically mentioned in s
121, IPC, conspiracy per se was not made an offence under the IPC.

The position, however, changed with the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1913 (8 of
1913). It added chapter V – A (ss 120A and 120B) to the Penal Code to assimilate the law of
criminal conspiracy in India with that of England7 and to give extended effect to the law of
conspiracy in India.

Thus, with the inclusion of ss 120A and 120B, the IPC now encompasses the law of
conspiracy to cover the following:

(i) Conspiracy as a substantive offence (chapter V-A: ss 120A and 120B)


(ii) Conspiracy as a form of abetment (chapter V-A: s 107 Secondly);
(iii) Conspiracy to wage, attempt to or abet war against the Government of India (chapter VI:
s 121A)
(iv) Involvement in specific offences (chapter XVI: ss 310 (Thug) and 311(Punishment of
thug) chapter XVII: ss 400 (Punishment for belonging to a gang of dacoits), 401 (Punishment
for belonging to a gang of thieves), and 402) (assembling for the purpose of committing
dacoity).

6
The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
7
Hari Singh Gour, Penal Law of India, Sixth edn, Law Publishers, Allahabad, p 508.

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INGREDIENTS OF SECTION 120A, INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860

Criminal conspiracy is an independent offence. It is punishable separately. A criminal


conspiracy must be put to action; for so long as a crime is generated in the mind of the
accused, the same does not become punishable. Thoughts even criminal in character, often
involuntary, are not crimes but when they take a concrete shape of an agreement to do or
caused to be done an illegal act or an act which is not illegal, by illegal means then even if
nothing further is done, the agreement would give rise to a criminal conspiracy. The
ingredients of the offence of criminal conspiracy are:8
(i) an agreement between two or more persons;
(ii) an agreement must relate to doing or causing to be done either
(a) an illegal act;
(b) an act which is not illegal in it but is done by illegal means.

In Ram Narayan Popli v. CBI,9 while dealing with the conspiracy the majority opinion laid
down that the elements of a criminal conspiracy have been stated to be: (a) an object to be
accomplished, (b) a plan or scheme embodying means to accomplish that object, (c) an
agreement or understanding between two or more of the accused persons whereby, they
become definitely committed to cooperate for the accomplishment of the object by the means
embodied in the agreement, or by any effectual means, and (d) in the jurisdiction where the
statute required an overt act.

The essence of the offences of both statutory and common law conspiracy is the fact of
combination by agreement. The agreement may be express or implied, or in part express and
in part implied. The conspiracy arises and the offence is committed as soon as the agreement
is made; and the offence continues to be committed so long as the combination persists, that
is until the conspiratorial agreement is terminated by completion of its performance or by
abandonment or frustration or however it may be. The actus reus in a conspiracy is therefore
the agreement for the execution of the unlawful conduct, not the execution of it. It is not
enough that two or more persons pursued the same unlawful object at the same time or in the

8
Mir Nagvi Askari v. Central Bureau of Investigation, (2009) 15 SCC 643.
9
(2003) 3 SCC 641.

12
same place; it is necessary to show a meeting of minds, a consensus to affect an unlawful
purpose.
It is not, however, necessary that each conspirator should have been in communication with
every other. 10 In Noor Mohammad Mohd. Yusuf Momin v State of Maharashtra, 11 the
Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed that Criminal Conspiracy postulates an agreement
between two or more persons to do, or cause to be done an illegal act or an act which is not
illegal, by illegal means. It differs from other offences in that mere agreement is made an
offence even if no step is taken to carry out that agreement. Though there is close association
of conspiracy with incitement and abetment the substantive offence of criminal conspiracy is
somewhat wider in amplitude than abetment by conspiracy as contemplated by Section 107,
I.P.C.

A conspiracy from its very nature is generally hatched in secret. It is, therefore, extremely
rare that direct evidence in proof of conspiracy can be forthcoming from wholly disinterested,
quarters or from utter strangers. But, like other offences, criminal conspiracy can be proved
by circumstantial evidence. In E.G. Barsay v. State of Bombay,12 it was stated by the Supreme
Court that the gist of the offence is an agreement to break the law. The parties to such an
agreement will be guilty of criminal conspiracy, though the illegal act agreed to be done has
not been done. So too, it is not an ingredient of the offence that all the parties should agree to
do a single illegal act. It may comprise the commission of a number of acts.

Under Section 43 of the Indian Penal Code,13 an act would be illegal if it is an offence or if it
is prohibited by law. Under the first charge the accused are charged with having conspired to
do three categories of illegal acts, and the mere fact that all of them could not be convicted
separately in respect of each of the offences has no relevancy in considering the question
whether the offence of conspiracy has been committed. They are all guilty of the offence of
conspiracy to do illegal acts, though for individual offences all of them may not be liable. In
short in order to constitute an offence of criminal conspiracy, two or more persons must agree
to do an illegal act or an act which if not illegal by illegal means.

10
Halsbury’s Laws of England, 5th Edition, Vol 25, Page 73.
11
AIR 1971 SC 885.
12
AIR 1961 SC 1762.
13
The Indian Penal Code, 1860.

13
A three-Judge Bench in Yash Pal Mittal v. State of Punjab14 had noted the ingredients of the
offence of criminal conspiracy and held that the main object of the criminal conspiracy in the
first charge is undoubtedly cheating by personation. The other means adopted, inter alia, are
preparation or causing to be prepared spurious passports; forging or causing to be forged
entries and endorsements in that connection; and use of or causing to be used forged
passports as genuine in order to facilitate travel of persons abroad. The final object of the
conspiracy in the first charge being the offence of cheating by personation, as we find, the
other offences described therein are steps, albeit, offences themselves, in aid of the ultimate
crime. The charge does not connote plurality of objects of the conspiracy. That the appellant
himself is not charged with the ultimate offence, which is the object of the criminal
conspiracy, is beside the point in a charge under Section 120- B IPC as long as he is a party
to the conspiracy with the end in view. Whether the charges will be ultimately established
against the accused is a completely different matter within the domain of the trial court.

It was further held that the principal object of the criminal conspiracy in the first charge is
thus “cheating by personation”, and without achieving that goal other acts would be of no
material use in which any person could be necessarily interested. That the appellant himself
does not personate another person is beside the point when he is alleged to be a collaborator
of the conspiracy with that object. We have seen that some persons have been individually
and specifically charged with cheating by personation under Section 419 IPC. They were also
charged along with the appellant under Section 120-B IPC. The object of criminal conspiracy
is absolutely clear and there is no substance in the argument that the object is merely to cheat
simpliciter under Section 417, IPC.

NATURE AND SCOPE OF THE LAW OF CONSPIRACY N SECTION 120A, IPC

(i) Conspiracy is a substantive offence. The offence of criminal conspiracy exists in the very
agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal offence, irrespective of the
further consideration whether or not the offence has actually been committed.15

14
(1977) 4 SCC 540.
15
Bimbadhar Pradhan v. State of Orissa, AIR 1956 SC 469, (1956) Cr LJ 831 (SC).

14
(ii) ‘Agreement’ is the rock bottom of criminal conspiracy. Its essence is the unlawful
combination: It consists of the scheme or adjustment between two or more persons which
may be express or implied or partly express and partly implied. ‘Agreement’ is sine qua non
(absolute thing / essential condition) for constituting the offence of criminal conspiracy. It is
complete when the combination is framed to commit an offence.16 It is immaterial whether
anything has been done in pursuance of the unlawful agreement.17

(iii) To constitute a conspiracy meeting of minds of two or more persons for doing an illegal
act or an act by illegal means is the first and primary condition and it is not necessary that all
the conspirators must known each and every detail of conspirators takes active part in the
commission of each and every conspiratorial acts. Where in pursuance of the agreement the
conspirators commit offences individually or adopt illegal means to do a legal act which has a
nexus to the object of conspiracy, all of them will be liable for such offences even if some of
them have not actively participated in the commission of those offences.18 Conspirators may
appear and disappear from stage to stage in course of conspiracy.19

(iv) If there are more than two persons involved in a conspiracy, and if it is shown that the
object of the conspiracy has been achieved, then even if some of the other accused had been
acquitted, the remaining accused (even if it is one) could be convicted under s 120B, IPC.20

(v) The gist of the offence of criminal conspiracy is to break the law. There is no condition
imposed in the provision that all the parties should agree to do a single illegal act. The
conspiracy may comprise the commission of a number of illegal acts. It is sufficient if the
agreement to commit the illegal acts is established. In such a case, all of them will be held
liable for the offence of conspiracy; although for individual offences, all of them may not be
held liable.21

16
Devender Pal Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi) & Anr, (2002) 6 SCC 234, AIR 2002 SC 1661: Mohd Khalid v.
State of West Bengal, (2002)' 7 SOC 334.
17
Bimbadhar Pradhan v. State of Orissa, AIR 1956 SC 469, (1956) Cr Li 831 (SC), see also Devender Pal Singh
v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2002) 5 SCC 234, AIR 2002 SC 1661.
18
State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini & Ors, AIR 1999 SC 2640, (1999) Cr LI 3124 (SC); KR Puroshbothaman v.
State of Kerala, 2005 Indlaw SC 011.
19
Rayhuvir Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 1987 SC 149, (1987) Cr LJ 157 (SC).
20
Biribadhar Pradhan v. State of Orissa, AIR 1956 SC 469, (1955) Cr II 831 (SC).
21
BC Barsay v. State of Bombay, AIR 1961 S 1762, (1961) 2 Cr LJ 828 (SO).

15
(vi) The essence of the agreement to break the law is the agreement to do an illegal act. This
implies that to establish the charge of conspiracy, knowledge about the involvement or
indulgence in either an illegal act or a legal act by illegal means is necessary.22

(vii) The essentials of a single conspiracy require that there must be a common design and a
common intention of all to work in furtherance of the common design. A single conspiracy is
separate and distinct from separate acts committed by different people without a common
purpose. The nature of the role played by each participant member in such a conspiracy is
succinctly stated by the Supreme Court in Mohd Hussain Umar Kachra v KS Dalip Singhji.23

(viii) When an offence is committed by different persons acting in the same manner but
independently, it cannot be said that there was necessarily a conspiracy. Similarity of
methods followed by them does not establish a planned operation with Common intention or
consensus, hence, no conspiracy can be said to be established. In any case, since the offences
could have been committed by different persons acting in same manner, but independently, it
cannot be said that there necessarily was a conspiracy.24

(ix) It is not necessary for all the conspirators to know each other. They may adopt many
devices to achieve the common goal of the conspiracy and there may be division of
performances in the chain of actions with one object to achieve the real end of which every
collaborator must be aware of and in which each one of them must be interested. There may
be unity of object or purpose, but there may be plurality of means, sometimes even unknown
to one another, amongst the conspirators. Even if some steps are resorted to by some of the
conspirators without the knowledge of the others, it will not affect the culpability of those
others when they are associated with the objects of the conspiracy.25

(x) When the ultimate offence consists of a chain of actions, it is not necessary for the
prosecution to establish, to bring home the charge of conspiracy, that each of the conspirators
had the knowledge of what the collaborator has done or would do, so long as it is known that

22
State of Maharashtra v. Som Nath Thapa, AIR 1996 SC 1744.
23
AIR 1970 SC 45.
24
Fakhruddin v. State Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1967 SC 1326, (1967) Cr Id 1197 (SC).
25
Yash Pal v. State of Punjab, AIR 1977 SC 2433, (1977) 4 SCC 540; see also RK Dalmia v. Delhj
Administration, AIR 1962 SC 1821; Mohd Hussain Umar Kochra v. Dalip Singh, AIR 1970 SC 45; Nazir KJ
and Ors v. State of Delhi, (2003) 8SCC 461.

16
the collarbone would put the goods or service to an unlawful use. 26 It is also not necessary
that each conspirator to either know all the details of the scheme or participate at every stage
of the conspired act.27

(xi) Every conspirator is liable for all the acts of the co-conspirators, if they are towards
attaining the goals of the conspiracy, even if some of them had not actively participated in the
commission of the offences.28

(xii) Where the agreement between certain persons is a conspiracy to do or continue to do


something which is illegal, it is immaterial whether the agreement to do any of the acts in
furtherance of the commission of the offence does not strictly amount to an offence. The
entire agreement must be viewed as a whole and it has to be ascertained as to what in fact
conspirators intended to do or the object they wanted to achieve.

(xiii) Conspiracy is a continuing offence and it continues to subsist and committed, whenever
one of the conspirators does an act or a series of acts. So long as its performance continues, it
is continuing offence till it is executed or rescinded or frustrated by choice or necessity.

PUNISHMENT OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY

As per Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, “(1) whoever is a party to a criminal
conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous
imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made
in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he
had abetted such offence.

(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an
offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for
a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.”

26
State of Maharashtra v. Som Nath Thapa, AIR 1996 SC 1744.
27
Ajay Agarwal v. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 1637, (1993) Cr LJ 2516; State of Himachal Pradesh v.
Kishanlal Pardhan, AIR 1987 SC 773, (1987) Cr LJ 709 (SC).
28
State of Himachal Pradesh v. Kishanlal Pardhan, AIR 1987 SC 773, (1987) Cr LJ 709.

17
For purposes of punishment, Section 120B divides criminal conspiracies into two classes: (i)
A party of a conspiracy to commit a serious offence is punished in the same manner as if he
had abetted the offence, (ii) conspiracies to commit any other offence and conspiracies to
commit illegal acts other than offences are subjected to imprisonment for a term upto six
months with or without fine or both.

Section 120B of the code is required to read with Section 196 (Prosecution for offences
against the state for criminal conspiracy to commit such offence) of the code. It mandates a
Court not to, without prior sanction of the State Government or the District Magistrate, take
cognisance of a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment of a
term more than two years.

No prior sanction of the concerned State Government or of the District Magistrate is required
when the criminal conspiracy related to an offence punishable with imprisonment for two or
less than two years’ imprisonment. For initiating criminal proceedings parties to a conspiracy
made abroad, requires sanction of the Central Government. A conspiracy hatched in India to
commit an unlawful act outside India does not require sanction of the Central Government.

NATURE AND SCOPE OF SECTION 120B

To make a person liable for the offence of conspiracy, it is not necessary that the offender
ought to have been present from the very beginning or even during the entire period of the
conspiracy. A conspirator may come and leave the conspiracy at any time during the
pendency of the conspiracy. Any and every such conspirator will be liable for the subsequent
acts of the conspirators.

When the conspiracy alleged is with regard to committing a serious crime of the nature
contemplated in s 120B read with proviso to s 120A, IPC, then, in that event, mere proof of
agreement between the accused for the commission of such a crime alone is enough to bring
about conviction under s 120B and the proof of an overt act by the accused or by any one of
them would not be necessary. There is no requirement that each and every one of the
conspirators must commit some overt act towards the fulfilment of the object of the
conspiracy. Since, in most cases, a conspiracy is conceived evidences which lead to an

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inference that an agreement between two or more people to commit an offence may be
drawn.29

To be roped in with the aid of s 120B, there should be clear evidence that the accused was not
only a part of the conspiracy, but that he had the knowledge about and consented for the
same. This has been established in the case of Nand Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar.30

CONCLUSION

It is important to understand the current system of criminal conspiracy both because of its
pervasive use in prosecutions and the growing consensus that the law targets unpopular ideas
and speech and produces erroneous outcomes. Now more than ever, reforms to the system of
criminal conspiracy are necessary to ensure a legitimate criminal justice system that protects
individual rights and ensures reliable outcomes.

The basic concepts of criminal conspiracy as enumerated above are losing their essence,
resulting in misuse of this provision to the detriment of proper manifestation of law on this
subject.31 It has been observed that trial courts in India are not following these principles. It
has to be ensured that all the stakeholders of the justice delivery mechanism do their duty
diligently, and in a manner which is in consonance with the concept of criminal law as
settled, followed and practiced.

There have been numerous instances of such invocation of Section 120B IPC, like in the
Indira Gandhi murder case, where Balbir Singh was convicted by the trial court. His
conviction was upheld by High Court, but he was ultimately acquitted by the Supreme Court.
In the Parliament House Attack case, the trial court convicted all the accused, but the High
Court acquitted SAR Gillani and Afsan Guru. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the
judgment of the High Court for these two persons. Similarly, in the Jain Hawala case, the trial
court framed charges against both VC Shukla and LK Advani along with the Jain Brothers.

29
Suresh Chandra Bahri v. State of Bihar, AIR 1994 SC 2420, (1994) Cr Lj 3271 (SC).
30
AIR 1992 SC 1939.
31
Morrison, Steven R., The System of Modern Criminal Conspiracy (November 11, 2012). 63 Cath. U. L. Rev.
371 (2014).

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However, the High Court discharged them, an order which was confirmed by the Supreme
Court by dismissing the appeal of the CBI.

Very recently, on the 3rd of May, 2019, the former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh
Vaghela said that the Pulwama terror attack was the BJP’s conspiracy as was Godhra. He also
claimed that the vehicle with RDX which was used in Pulwama attack bore the registration
initial of Gujarat, GJ. Godhra was a conspiracy. Talking to media persons, Vaghela said:
“Terrorism is used by the BJP government to win elections. A number of terrorist attacks
have taken place in the last five years.”32 This hasn’t been proved but has been addressed as
an issue by the aforementioned CM.

Certain pressure groups in their zeal to prove their relevance, start exerting unnecessary
pressure on our very robust and independent justice delivery mechanism. This should be
shunned; otherwise there are chances of misuse or wrong implementation of the law of
criminal conspiracy to achieve misplaced moral victories.

32
https://www.firstpost.com/politics/pulwama-attack-a-bjp-conspiracy-just-like-godhra-claims-ex-gujarat-cm-
shankersinh-vaghela-alleges-govt-uses-terrorism-to-win-polls-6555261.html.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOOKS:
 K.D Gaur, Textbook on the Indian Penal Code, Universal Law Publishing,
2009.
 Ratanlal and Dhiraj Lal, Law of Crimes, 24th Edition, Vol. 1.
 KD Gaur, Criminal Law: Cases and Materials, (6th edn. 2009).
 Batuk Lal, Indian Penal Code, (2nd edn. 2010), Central Law Agency.
 Hari Singh Gour, Penal Law of India, Sixth edn, Law Publishers, Allahabad.
 Glanville Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law: The General Part, second edn, Stevens &
Sons, London, 1983, Indian Reprint by Universal Publishing, New Delhi, 1999.
 PSA Pillai’s, Criminal Law, 11th Edition (2012), LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa,
Nagpur.
 Halsbury’s, Laws of England, 5th Edition, Vol 25.

ARTICLES:
 Vijeta, The Law of Criminal Conspiracy Section 120A & 120B of Indian Penal Code,
International Journal of Recent Research Aspects ISSN: 2349-7688, Vol. 4, Issue 1,
March 2017, pp. 148-15.
 Morrison, Steven R., The System of Modern Criminal Conspiracy (November 11, 2012).
63 Cath. U. L. Rev. 371 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1955158
or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1955158.
 https://barandbench.com/criminal-conspiracy-law-applicability.

OTHER SOURCES:
• SCC Online.
• Manupatra.

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