Provision Of The Day: Section 120-A Of Indian Penal Code- Criminal Conspiracy

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Provision

Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code 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.]

Introduction

Conspiracy means a plan/ plot/ an agreement or a secret plot that is hatched between two or more person in the attempt to execute a illegal or harmful act. The act includes purposes like murder, fraud, treason, rape and so on. These plans/ agreements are kept as a secret from the public, that is, the information of such act is with held from the public. In Criminal Law, conspiracy means some agreement to commit a crime at some point in future.

Conspiracy does not highlight that the crime needs to be completed. A group of 5 people can be convicted for committing burglary, even if the act never really happens. Conspiracy is unique. For clarification, a person who made an attempt to make a conspiracy can be charged with a conspiracy to commit a crime as well as will be charged if the crime is completed. This characteristic of Conspiracy under Criminal Law, comes under the category of Inchoate Crime.

Analysis

The essence of Criminal Conspiracy focusses on the unlawful combination. When the combination is framed, that is when the offence is complete. Hence it can be stated that unless required, no overt act needs to be done in furtherance of the conspiracy and that the fulfilment of the objective need not be accomplished. Creation of a criminal conspiracy is an indictable offence irrespective of the attainment of objective.

Offence of Criminal Conspiracy does not merely consist of the intention of two or more, but that those two or more would commit some unlawful activity with some unlawful means. So long as the design rests in decision, it is not liable to be charged with a crime, but when the conspirators agree to carry it into effect with the plot being the act itself, it will be held punishable for the criminal object and use of criminal means. (K.Hasim v State of Tamil Nadu)

  • Ingredients of Criminal Conspiracy

There must be an agreement between the persons. The agreement should be:

  1. For doing an illegal act
  2. Doing the act by any illegal means. It is to be notes that the act might need not be illegal, but when combining with the intention and the unlawful and illegal means it will be considered unlawful. Performance of an illegal act by an illegal mean is sine qua non (essential condition) of criminal conspiracy.

The important ingredient of the offence is the agreement between two or more parties. In cases where criminal conspiracy is alleged the court must highlight or inquire if two persons are independently pursuing towards the same end or if they are pursuing towards the one end together. For the establishment of conspiracy, physical manifestation of the agreement is important to be proved. The evidence as to transmission of thoughts sharing the unlawful process alone is not sufficient.

  • Essential Elements of Criminal Conspiracy
  1. There must be an understanding and agreement between tow or more parties who allegedly get together to conspire and where they cooperate together for accomplishment of the object embodied in the agreement by an effectual manner.
  2. An object which is intended to be achieved.
  3. A plan which embodies means to accomplish the object.
  4. In the jurisdiction where statute required an overt act.

The crux of the criminal conspiracy lies in the combination of criminal intention and conspiracy. Normally the offence is itself complete when it is framed. Not even an overt act is necessary to constitute it as an indictable offence. Law Making conspiracy is a crime designed to curb the immoderate power to do any illegal or unlawful act and mischief.

In a criminal conspiracy, involvement and arrangement of two or more parties is mandatory. It can be cited well from the case of Haradhan Chakrabarty vs. Union of India which lays down that “two or more persons must be parties to such an agreement and one person alone cannot be held guilty of criminal conspiracy for a simple reason that a person alone cannot conspire with oneself”. However, it should be noted that it isn’t necessary that every person who agrees to do an illegal act/ acts would be capable of committing offence is that respect. Although an agreement of two or more parties are needed, yet it is not an ingredient of criminal conspiracy that all the parties are required to do a single illegal act. It may comprise a number of such illegal acts. This was highlighted in Major Barsay vs. State of Maharashtra.

Having a common objective and meeting of minds is an important essential of criminal conspiracy. Mere knowledge and discussion of the same is not sufficient. If the court proves that the parties to the agreement are concerned about the criminal conspiracy, they can be held guilty. Hence the intention to not only commit crime but joining hands with the person having the same intention of doing an illegal activity by an unlawful manner is an offence. Just having a mere thought of committing the crime, without an agreement, alone does not constitute offence. Express thought need not be proved. Evidence relating to the transmission of thoughts leading to sharing of thoughts related to the unlawful activity is sufficient. This was underlined in R. Venkatakrishna vs. CBI.

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  • Proof of Conspiracy
  1. Since conspiracy is hatched in secrecy, therefore getting a concrete evidence to prove conspiracy is difficult and is rarely available. The offence can be proved largely from interferences drawn from acts or illegal omissions committed by conspirators in pursuance of common end.
  2. Since the matter can be derived from a special act or illegal omission, therefore pursuance of common intention of conspirators and a definite criminal purpose among them is mandatory.
  3. Since direct evidences are hard to obtain, hence circumstantial evidence which records and establishes any common design and means are reliable.
  4. It is not mandatory to prove that the perpetrators expressly agree to do the act. If there is a proper necessary implication of the same, the act will be termed illegal.
  5. Since circumstantial evidence can be the only one that is available, hence proving the conspiracy with the same is enough.
  6. The condition for accessing the evidence of co-conspirators as laid down in Section 10 of Evidence Act, 1872 are:
  7. Prima facie evidence should be present regarding the involvement of two or more people in forming the agreement.
  8. Anything said, done or written by any one of them in reference to the common intention will be evidence against the other.
  9. Anything said, done or written by the conspirator after the common intention was formed will be held admissible.
  • Punishment

The section prescribes punishment for two offences of varying gravity, viz (a) criminal conspiracy as such, and (b) criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with at least two years or more of rigorous imprisonment.

According to Indian Penal Code section 120-B is defined as under,

  • Whoever is a party to 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.
  • 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.

Judicial Analysis

In State of Bihar v. Kailash where there were two rations in the town of Patna – one standing on the name of respondent Kailash Prasad Singh and other in the name of respondent Shyam Sunder Singh. Respondent Adya Prasad was the Munshi of the first shop while respondent Ragho Prasad was the Munshi of the latter shop. Respondent Ambika Prasad was a helper of Adya Prasad. Occasionally he worked for the other shop also. The case against the respondents was that between October 1952 and February 1954 they conspired to cheat the Ration Office at Patna by presenting forged challans and obtaining ration authorities on the basis of those forged challans and thereafter taking delivery of grains from the Government godowns. The accused was the license holder of a shop and there was evidence that he used to visit the offices. However, it was not proved that he filed any of the fabricated challans. The only circumstance against him was that he knew of the passed challans and must have been benefited by the fraud. Therefore, the evidence of his being a member of the conspiracy consisted of the commission of the offences themselves by others. The court held that it could not be said that the charge of conspiracy had not been proved against him.

In Sushil Suri v. Central Bureau of Investigation, The Supreme Court held that where two Chartered Accountants had dishonestly and fraudulently opened several fictitious accounts in some banks with an intention and object to facilitate bank finance for the purpose other than stated in the loan application. The accused persons submitted to the bank, fake and forged invoices of the fictitious/non-existent supplier. The essential ingredient of criminal conspiracy is agreement to commit offence between accused and the commission of crime alone is enough to bring about a conviction under section 120B. The appellant with Directors and Chartered Accountant defrauded revenue and in the process cheated the public exchequer of crores of rupees and were convicted under section 120B, 420, 409 and 471.

In Hira Lal Hari Lal Bhagwati v CBI, it was stated that, to bring home the charge of criminal conspiracy with the ambit of section 120-B, it is necessary to establish that there was an agreement between the parties for doing an unlawful act. It is difficult to establish it by direct evidence.

Conclusion

The offence of criminal conspiracy is an exception to the general laws. Here intent alone does not constitute crime, but if the same crime is committed by joining hands with people having same intention, it leads to criminal conspiracy. Here the end means should be illegal and unlawful. It is said that each conspirator is a partner in the crime. If two or more people enter into conspiracy and do any act pursuant to the agreement in contemplation of law, the act of each of them and they are jointly responsible thereof.

-Nidhi Paul (LC Content Writer)


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