A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit an offence. The mere meeting of mind of the parties to commit an offence is a conspiracy.
Originally, the IPC consisted of only two provisions for punishing the offence of conspiracy. First, the provision of section 107, which made a conspiracy by the way of abetment, punishable. The others are specific provisions involving offences which are included conspiracies to commit them. As for example, Section 310 (in the definition of thugs), Section 400 (belonging to a gang of dacoits), Section 401 (belonging to a gang of thieves), etc.
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The position, however, changed with the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1913 (8 of 1913).
Chapter V-A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) deals with ‘Criminal Conspiracy’. Legislature inserted it in the aforesaid amendment. It consists of two sections 120A and 120B. Section 120A gives the definition of criminal conspiracy. Section 120B deals with punishment for committing the offence of criminal conspiracy.
The law of conspiracy covers the following:
(i) Conspiracy as a Substantive offence i.e. conspiracy is in itself an offence (ch V-A: ss 120A and 120B);
(ii) Conspiracy as a form of abetment (ch V: s107 Secondly);
(iii) Conspiracy to wage, attempt to, or abet war against the Government of India (ch VI: s 121A), and
(iv) Involvement in specific offences (ch XVI: ss 310 and 311; ch XVII: ss 400, 401 and 402).
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An offence occurs when:
a) Two or more persons agree to do an illegal act.
b) Two or more persons cause to be done an illegal act.
c) If two or more persons agree to do a legal act by illegal means.
d) Two or more persons cause to be done a legal act by illegal means.
An agreement is made between two or more persons to commit any one of the aforesaid offences, is called criminal conspiracy.
Moreover, an act done in pursuance of this agreement is part of the criminal conspiracy. Hence, it is immaterial that the act done is the ultimate object or merely incidental to the object.
Thereby an agreement for committing an offence, two or more persons agree to do an illegal act or cause to be done an illegal act is amounting to criminal conspiracy even though the object of the agreement is not fully accomplished.
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Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)
A plain reading of s 120A gives ingredients of Criminal Conspiracy as follows;
- There should be two or more persons.
- There should be an agreement between themselves.
- The agreement must be to do or cause to be done:
(a) an illegal act; or
(b) a legal act by unlawful means.
Moreover, in the case of a conspiracy to commit an illegal act, the mere agreement is sufficient to impose liability; however, in the case of conspiracy, to do a legal act by illegal means, there ought to be some overt act which is committed by parties to the agreement.
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Punishment of Criminal Conspiracy
Sec 120B deals with the punishment of criminal conspiracy. This section is in two parts i.e. sec 120B (1) and 120B (2). Any person, whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence is punishable under this section.
Sec 120B (1) deals with heinous and grievous offences. However, sec 120B (2) deals with minor criminal offences.
Firstly, we will discuss sec 120B(1) and then sec 120B (2).
Section 120B (1) of the Indian Penal Code
Particularly, this section deals with the conspiracy of three types of offences. They are as follows:
- an offence in which punishment is death;
- an offence in which punishment is life imprisonment;
- or an offence in which punishment is rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards.
According to Section 120B (1), when there’s no expressed provision regarding the conspiracy of aforesaid offences in the code then this section is applicable. Further, it says that the parties who commit any of the aforesaid offences are punishable in the same manner as the abetment of such offences.
Section 120B (2) of the Indian Penal Code
This section deals with the criminal conspiracy of remaining offences. Generally, it covers minor criminal offences. In other words, we can say it covers the conspiracy of those offences which is punishable with less than 2-years of imprisonment. Thus, the section imposes nominal punishment i.e. imprisonment for the term not exceeding 6 months.
Thus, section 120B (2) says that a person who is the party in criminal conspiracy other than section 120B (1), shall be punished with
- either imprisonment for the term of not exceeding 6 months
- or with fine or both
Any agreement between two or more person to commit an offence is a criminal conspiracy. For the purpose of punishment, s 120B divides criminal conspiracies into two classes. A party to a conspiracy to commit a serious offence, is, in the absence of an express provision in the IPC, punished in the same manner as if he had abetted the offence. Conspiracies to commit any other offences punishable with imprisonment for a term up to six months with or without fine or both.
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