AUTHOR : NADIYA YAKUB PATEL
When an individual person has an intention to commit a wrongful act, the person is said to commit a crime. To commit a criminal offense, it is important that there is actus rea that is, an act, along with mens rea, which means the criminal intent. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has introduced a new concept after the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1913. They added the term ‘Criminal Conspiracy’. Criminal Conspiracy basically means an agreement to commit an offense. During the earlier period, the conspiracy was considered to be a civil wrong. Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), conspiracy is punishable only in two conditions:
1. Conspiracy by way of abetment.
2. Conspiracy involved in certain offences. For example, robbery.
However, with time, the concept of conspiracy has widened and it was decided that when two or more persons agree upon committing an unlawful act, or do any crimeful act through the administration of any unlawful means, it is said to be punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Hence, under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), an act is said to be punishable even when a person has an intention and not yet performed the crime. The definition was further elaborated under Section 121 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1870.
DEFINITION OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY UNDER IPC:
Under the section 120A, it defines that the Criminal Conspiracy as : “when;
1. Two or more persons,
2. Agree to do, or cause to be done.
a. An illegal act,
b. And act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a Criminal Conspiracy, provided that,
3. No agreement except an agreement to commit an offense shall amount to a Criminal Conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is completed by one or more parties to such an agreement in pursuance thereof. For instance, an LL.B student who had applied for the verification and photo-copy of his paper in ‘Law of Contract’ wanted to get his result at the earliest point of time legal act. For this purpose, he or she conspires with the University clerk to give five hundred rupees to the University Controller of Examination, so as to induce the controller to declare his result (illegal means). He can be held liable for criminal conspiracy.
Explanation : It is immaterial whether the illegal act is that the ultimate object of such agreement or is merely incident to that object.
Essential elements of a crime : Person, Mens Rea, Actus Rea, Injury.
Conspiracy does not essentially have to be written or formal. All that is required is mutual understanding and a common goal to perform an unlawful act. Secondly, all the conspirators must have knowledge of the crime and each of them has participated in some or the other way in formatting the crime. If a person who is entirely unaware of the crime and has no knowledge of it and he or she is participating in a crime cannot be charged with conspiracy.
For instance, if P and Q have a plan to rob a bank and asked R to drive them to the bank without informing R of their intent to rob the bank, hence R cannot be charged with conspiracy in robbing. There is a plan between P, Q, and R but initially, it does not involve S. S has participated at the 4th stage of executing the plan but was not at the beginning of the plan even then S will be punished under the conspiracy as he later got involved in the same plan for taking to its final stage.
HOW TO PROVE THE CONSPIRACY :
It was believed that agreement of minds is the one of the main evidence to prove the conspiracy under this section and also it is one of the hardest ones to prove because as we all known to the fact that offender by himself does not agree to a fact that he or she is involved with someone It is only matter of circumstances that one can prove that there is an agreement between those two. In short, we can say that the criminal conspiracy is based on circumstantial evidence in most cases there is no direct evidence to prove the same.
Also, the point to be noted that there is no conspiracy between the husband and wife because they are considered as the one person.
SALIENT FEATURES :
- The charge of criminal conspiracy cannot be frame against the alone accused.
- The Criminal conspiracy is an inchoate crime or incomplete crime there has to be some other substantive offense aiding it.
- The Individual cannot be held guilty of conspiracy if they are Husband and wife Under the age of the criminal responsibility
- An intended victim of the offense
Conspiracy can be of 2 types-
Wheel Conspiracy: Wheel Conspiracy is one in which the various defendants enter into separate agreements with a common defendant but the defendants have no connection with one another. For instance, here X may be in contact with A, B, and C separately. But they never meet.
Chain Conspiracy: Chain conspiracy is one in which each individual person is responsible for a distinct act within the overall plan. For instance, here X talks to A, A talks to B, B talks to C. here X and C never meet.
In the case of R v. Parnell (1881), J. Fitzgerald stated that the criminal conspiracy has been aptly described as the divisible under 3 heads: Where the end to be attained is in itself a crime where the object is lawful but the means to be resorted to are unlawful and where the object is to do injury to a 3 party though if the wrong were effected by the single individual it would be a wrong but not a crime.
In simple words the crime of the criminal conspiracy constitutes the following elements :-
1. The Presence of two or more persons.
2. The Agreement among the said persons.
3. Either do or to cause to be done an illegal act or to either do or to cause to be done an act by illegal means.
illegal act: To constitute the offense under this section there must be an agreement to do an act that is to contrary law. It may also be noted that it is illegal to conspire with another an act which may not crime if done alone. And the main motive or reason for this section is to make even the basic stage of a crime punishable.
illegal means: The agreement to do an act which may not be illegal but the means to do an act is unlawful is punishable under this section. The end does not justify the means. For instance, if a man wants to marry a girl but to marry her he tries to abduct the girl forcefully here the motive of the man is legal but the way to commit an act makes it punishable.
It can be illustrated as, if 6 friends P, Q, R, S, T, and U decide to kill their common enemy Z. They sit together and plan how to execute the murder of Z.
In this case, there were more than 2 persons, and also there is a prior meeting of mind of all the 6 persons to commit an offense and they agreed to do the illegal act. All the three conditions of the checklist are fulfilled hence it constitutes the crime of the criminal conspiracy.
PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY :
1. Whoever may be the party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with
b) Imprisonment for lifetime
c) Rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards
2. Whoever may be a party to criminal conspiracy to commit offenses aside from the offenses given in clause P, Q, and R; Shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or with the fine, or with the both.
CASE LAWS :
In the case of State v. Navjot Sandhu, AIR 2005 Supreme Court 3820, it had been held that “Something on which prosecution relies that it cannot be held which is adequate for connecting the accused in the offense of criminal conspiracy”
In the case of State of Maharashtra & Ors. v. Som Nath Thapa & Ors (1996) SC 659, it was observed that “For a person to conspire with someone, he/she must have knowledge of what the co-conspirators wanted to achieve and then having the intent to proceed it further with illegal acts and to form a course of conduct to achieve the illegal ends or to facilitate its accomplishment.”
In the case of, Subramaniam Swamy v. A Raja, (2012) 9 SCC 257, it said that “In legal proof, suspicion cannot take place in that and existence of a meeting between the accused person is not sufficient itself to infer the existence of a criminal conspiracy.” Several individuals who work altogether may commit more offenses and it causes greater harm than wrongdoers acting alone. These are the primary justifications for conspiracy prosecutions.
SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH CONSPIRACY LAW AND PROSECUTIONS :
1. Conspiracy law tests the bounds of the First Amendment rights as it allows prosecutors to use normally protected acts like attendance at meetings, speech, group against a defendant.
2. Evidentiary rules violate the core presumption in the U.S. law that individuals are liable only for their own actions. Statements and actions could also be assigned to an accused co-conspirator who has indirectly done or said the criminal things which are alleged, as courts inclined to be quite liberal in acknowledging evidence of association. In some cases, prosecutors often file the conspiracy charges so as to be ready to use that evidence as the only means to loosely connect with a specific defendant.
3. It is unclear in a conspiracy case whether the defendant is deliberately committing the criminal offense. The Judges may often instruct the juries that gratify of prosecutors, encourages convictions which is predicted on things said by the defendant who is uncertain and hard to grasp with certainty.
THE REFORMS TO IMPROVE THE FAIRNESS OF CONSPIRACY LAW :
The Conspiracy prosecutions can safeguard public safety, yet their intrinsic variability can cause unfairness. Solutions to the present threat are difficult, but the subsequent legal measures could be:
1. REQUIRE A SUBSTANTIAL OVERT ACT: To be valid this type of prosecution should require that a prosecutor shows a significant, not trivial, overt act shadowing the joint criminal effort.
2. IMPROVE JURY INSTRUCTIONS: The Instructions from judges tell juries what the prosecution must have proved if the jury is to seek out the defendant guilty. But in conspiracy cases, judges often tell juries, what the prosecution does not have to prove. This approach should be changed because it encourages the fallacious convictions of the individuals who stand trial.
3. STATE THE SCOPE OF THE CONSPIRACY PRIOR TO TRIAL: The Prosecutors can re-shape the allegations about the scope of the conspiracy as evidence develops, shifting arguments if their case fluctuates. The new rules should be executed which require prosecutors to make an unchanging specification of the bounds of the alleged conspiracy and therefore the one who is involved, allowing a correct resistance.
The Crime is a heinous act often committed by an individual under external pressure or to obtain some benefit out of it. There are times when not just an individual but a group of individuals together execute, plan to rob, murder, or theft, etc. Unlawful activities are certainly, considered to be illegal in the eyes of the judiciary. Several punishments have been allocated to each crime. Conspiracy and criminal conspiracy both are different from each other. To commit any crime Mens rea and Actus rea are an essential component.
Along with time, the term criminal conspiracy has been evolved. In spite of several provisions in the law, every morning newspaper carries, almost every day, reports of crime, torture, assault, murder, deaths, etc. There is a saying of the Hon. The Supreme Court and the Society’s cries for justice become louder.
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