Friday, 23 October 2015

Criminal Conspiracy under Indian Penal Code

Criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or
criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors. When two or more persons agree to commit any crime, they are guilty of conspiracy whether the crime is committed or not. Criminal Conspiracy is one of the inchoate crimes which serve to punish and deter people from committing crime.

Halsbury’s Laws of England explain the concept of Criminal Conspiracy as: “Conspiracy consists in the agreement of two or more persons to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. It is an inevitable offence of common law, the punishment for which is imprisonment or fine or both at the discretion of the Court.”

Conspiracy was initially was considered as only a civil wrong, but later on it was brought under the ambit of Indian Criminal Law. Conspiracy was not an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) until the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1913 was passed which added the sections 120-A and 120-B to the IPC.
Now, sections 120-A and 120-B of the IPC, 1860 reads as:

120A. Definition of criminal conspiracy.

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.

Section 120B. Punishment of criminal conspiracy

(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.

Para I
Punishment—Same as for abetment of the offence which is the object of the conspiracy—According as the offence which is the object of conspiracy is cognizable or non-cognizable—According as offence which is object of conspiracy is bailable or non-bailable—Triable by court by which abetment of the offence which is the object of conspiracy is triable—Non-compoundable.

Para II

Punishment—Imprisonment for six months or fine, or both—non-cognizable—Bailable—Triable by Magistrate of the first class—Non-compoundable.

So, the main ingredients of Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code are:
1) There should be two or more persons
2) There should be an agreement between them
3) The agreement must be to do or cause to be done:
        a) An illegal act; or
        b) A lawful act by illegal means.

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. The actus reus in a conspiracy is the agreement to execute the illegal conduct, not the execution of it. It is necessary to show a meeting of minds, a consensus to effect an unlawful purpose. It is not necessary that each conspirator should have been in communication with every other.

Proof of criminal conspiracy

It is not easy to get proof of a criminal conspiracy by direct evidence so probably for this reason
Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 was enacted. Section 10 of Evidence Act reads as under:-

“Things said or done by conspirator in reference to common design:-Where there is reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong, anything said, done or written by any one of such persons in reference to their common intention, after the time when such intention was first entertained by any one of them, is a relevant fact as against each of the persons believed to so conspiring, as well for the purpose of proving the existence of the conspiracy as for the purpose of showing that any such person was a party to it."

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