JOINT AND GROUP LIABILITY by Gauri Bandre@LEXCLIQ

Liability simply means legally obligated under law. Now the concept of liability concerns both civil and criminal law. To understand it in more detail let us classify the concept of liability under four main categories.

  1. Individual Liability- In, which it talks about the direct liability of the act. Example: If X kills Y then X will be held liable for the murder of Y.
  2. Joint Liability- Obligation of two or more partners in crime who will be held jointly liable for an act of crime. Example: If X and Z kill Y then both will be equally liable for the murder of Y.
  3. Constructive liability- In constructive liability, a person is held liable for any consequence resulting from his unlawful conduct or that of others (partner). Example: If X, Z, and A go to kill Y, after entering his house only X and Z inflict actual harm to Y in the intention of kill Y, and meanwhile, A was observed to be standing out in an order to keep an eye. Here, even if A has not actually murdered Y still it will be assumed that he has had a passive intention to kill Y and will be held liable as per the law.
  4. Vicarious Liability- This liability is mostly covered under civil law in which talks about master and servant relations, employer-employee, etc. Example: If X is the master and Y is the servant in the time of employment X directs Y to go and bring some flowers while bringing the flowers Y knocks down Q in this case X will be held liable for the crime committed by Y.

The essential ingredient of criminal liability is one Common Intention and the second is that of Common Object. The concept of common intention is not as covered under IPC but includes a number of offenses under its ambit and constructive liability is also a part of common intention. In which it states a criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone like a thread in a necklace that runs through all beads. Section 34 of IPC states offenses done under the common intention.

The essential ingredient of common intention

  • Intention- Meeting of minds is the most important element there should be a common intention it may be premeditated or spontaneous but must be formed before the commission of the act.
  • Participation- Participation can be either active or passive but the presence of the human being or participant is important near the act of crime and second, they must act in the furtherance of the crime means if X and Y wish to kill Z and while in furtherance of committing that act Q the watchman of Z comes in middle so, X and Y kill Q in order to reach Z. Here we can prove the joint liability of X and Y in furtherance of committing a crime, in this case, they will be guilty of an offense and not abetment.

Now the exception to this act is of similar intention. A similar intention is not the same as common intention in this case intention could be similar but not common means there is no proven meeting of minds before committing an offense. Therefore, you cannot convict a person under sec 34 but can be held liable under sec 38 that says persons concerned in criminal act may be guilty of different by means of that act.

The common object on other hand is broadly termed under sec 141 to 160 of IPC, this topic is quite narrow in use than that of common intention here the prior meeting of minds is not an essential element in fact it has a prerequisite condition if fulfilled of any person can be held under the law of committing an offense. Unlawful assembly is an offense under sec 141 that says every member of an unlawful assembly is held liable for any criminal act done in furtherance of a common object. Therefore, here we assume that if the purpose is common so must be the responsibility.

The essential ingredient for unlawful assembly

  • There should be a minimum of five-person in committing an offense.
  • They must fulfill any one or more prerequisite condition as per sec 141:
  1. To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, 1[the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legis­lature of any State], or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; or
  2. To resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or
  3. To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offense; or
  4. By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or another incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or
  5. By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do. Explanation.—An assembly which was not unlawful when it assem­bled, may subsequently become an unlawful assembly.

So under IPC, we presume that when parties go with a common object with a common purpose each and everyone becomes responsible for the acts of each and every other in execution and furtherance of their common purpose. Simply because the presence of an accomplice gives a necessary, support, motivation, and encourages one to commit the offense which is deemed to be unlawful. Also, in case of group offenses, it becomes difficult to prove the individual liability and in order to provide justice we use these concepts

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