Criminal Conspiracy by Diksha Dubey @Lexcliq

Definition of ‘Conspiracy’

The offence of criminal conspiracy is defined under Section 120-A of Chapter V-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. According to Section 120-A, when two or more persons come together and agree to do, or cause something to be done, which constitutes an illegal act or a legal act carried forward by illegal means, such persons would be guilty of the commission of the offence of criminal conspiracy. In simpler terms, conspiracy refers to the meeting of minds for the commission of an offence. However, no such agreement would constitute the offence of criminal conspiracy, unless and until an act is performed in furtherance of such an agreement. The explanation attached to Section 120-A makes it clear that it is immaterial whether the illegal act committed in furtherance of such an agreement, is the focal point of the agreement or, is merely incidental to the performance of the ultimate goal of the agreement.

Ingredients of Section 120A

In rajiv kumar v. state of U.P, the court took out some basic necessary ingredients in order to constitute conspiracy,

  1. There must be two or more persons;
  2. There must be an illegal act or an act in an illegal way;
  3. There must be a meeting of minds;
  4. There must be an agreement regarding the same thing.

The ingredients must be present in any act in order to constitute it as a crime of criminal conspiracy. In pratapbhai hamirbhai solanki v. state of gujarat and another the apex court held that the most important ingredient is the intent to cause an illegal act.

Punishment for Criminal Conspiracy

Section 120-B prescribes the punishment for the commission of the crime of criminal conspiracy. According to Section 120-B, if the parties involved in the conspiracy, conspired to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or more, shall be punishable in the same manner as if he/she had abetted the commission of such an offence, if no explicit punishment for the commission of such a conspiracy has been provided for, by the Code. However, if the parties involved in the conspiracy, conspired to commit an offence punishable with terms not prescribed previously, such persons shall be sentenced to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine, or both.

Salient features

Some of the salient features to constitute an offence of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code, are as follows:

  • There must be two or more person involved in the commission of the offence of criminal conspiracy.
  • There must be an agreement between the parties.
  • Such an agreement must be for the commission of an illegal act or the commission of a legal act by illegal means.
  • When the agreement is for the commission of a legal act by illegal means, an overt act must have been carried out by the parties in furtherance of the same, and the mere agreement is not sufficient to establish the commission of the crime.
  • The parties must be aware of the illegal object or the illegal means, for the agreement to constitute as a criminal conspiracy.
  • The crime of criminal conspiracy is an incomplete or inchoate crime, which needs an additional substantive offence complementing it, to constitute as a crime punishable under the Code.
  • Criminal Conspiracy does not take place when the parties involved are husband and wife, of minor age, or is the person against whom the offence was sought to be committed.

Conclusion

The offence of criminal conspiracy is an exception to the general rule that in order to constitute a crime, both mens rea and actus rea must be involved, here merely guilty mind is sufficient to render a person guilty if the agreement was to commit an illegal act. However, an act, or actus reus becomes essential again if the object of the agreement was to do a lawful act by unlawful means. The criminal conspiracy can be inferred from the surrounding circumstances and the conduct of the suspected or the accused person. A person found to be guilty of criminal conspiracy, is punished under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This Section of the Code, is slowly losing its essence and there is a need to ensure that due diligence is maintained in cases of criminal conspiracy to propagate true manifestation of the law and justice. The well-established principle of criminal law, ‘fouler the crime, higher the proof required’ must be kept in mind, and the sanctity of law upheld.

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