Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code defines criminal conspiracy, which spells that: When the accused agree to do, or cause to be done, an act and when such an act is either illegal or is done by illegal means and when at least one of the accused does any overt act in pursuance of the agreement arrived at, the accused is said to have committed the offence of hatching a criminal conspiracy. Commission of criminal conspiracy requires that there has to be a common design and the common intention of all the accused to work in furtherance of the common design. Each conspirator plays a separate role in one integrated and united effort to achieve the common purpose. In such a case, each of the accused is hatching a conspiracy.


There has to be an association of two or more persons to hatch a criminal conspiracy. The offence of criminal conspiracy consists of an agreement between two or more persons to commit an offence. There has to be unanimity of purpose and for the objects to be achieved. In a way, it is a mental process among the accused. Section 43 of the IPC defines the word ‘illegal’, which is applicable to everything which is an offence or is prohibited by law.


Hatching of a criminal conspiracy being a mental process among the accused, generally, direct evidence to link the accused with the conspiracy would not be available. As required under Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, where there is reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence, anything said or done 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 be 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. The conduct of the accused prior to the offence and their conduct after the conspiracy is hatched are important factors.


The criminal conspiracy remains in existence till the acts or omissions and/or the offences continue to be committed. It is a matter of common experience that in a conspiracy, the accused are alert, conscious, and would take all necessary care to see to it that the conspiracy should not be proved; hence direct evidence is seldom available to prove criminal conspiracy.


Whenever a conspirator commits any offence or act or omission prohibited by law, all the conspirators become liable for the act or omission, which is their joint liability, and it is for this reason that the offence committed by one of the accused can be used as evidence against a co-conspirator.

For any of the charged offences, if there is no express provision for abetment of that particular offence, the provisions for abetment in Chapter V of the IPC would be applicable. Section 109 provides for abetment of any offence when the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment. If the act is committed in consequence of instigation or in pursuance of a conspiracy, it is abetment. Thus if a co-conspirator accused does any act in pursuance of a conspiracy or instigation, it would be termed to have been done on account of the abetment by the conspirator who is proved to have abetted or instigated.


All the conspirators are liable for illegal acts or omissions by any co-conspirator under the principle of joint liability when the offences are committed because of a collective decision. The court can always infer about the intentions and objects of the accused where the acts of the co-conspirator before the conspiracy and after the conspiracy assist the court to so conclude. The presence of the co-conspirator is not a material and necessary ingredient to invoke the principle of joint liability.


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