Criminal Conspiracy- Section 120A & 120B
Authored By- Divya Surana
Criminal conspiracy is one of the prominent topics if the Indian Penal Code. This article is drafted in the format that it pinpoints every aspect relating to this provision. Criminal conspiracy is mentioned in Section 120 A and 120 B, Chapter VA of Indian Penal Code, 1860. One person can never be held guilty of criminal conspiracy with a simple reason that one cannot conspire with oneself. The agreement should be for doing an illegal act or doing an act that is not illegal unless done by illegal means. No conspiracy lie if two or more persons are working individually towards the same end because there was no meeting of mid. Mere knowledge and discussion are not necessary because criminal conspiracy is a substantive offence.
Criminal conspiracy is mentioned in Section 120 A and 120 B, Chapter VA of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The offence of criminal conspiracy was not there in the original draft of IPC, 1860 But, it was added by an amendment i.e. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1913.
Section 120A: Definition of criminal conspiracy.—When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done,—
(1) an illegal act, or
(2) an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy: Provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof. Explanation.—it is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement, or is merely incidental to that object.]
The vital components of this offence of criminal conspiracy are:
· There must be two or more than two persons.
· There must be an agreement between the persons who agreed for conspiracy.
· The agreement should be for doing an illegal act or for doing an act that is not illegal unless done by illegal means.
This simply means that an individual cannot constitute the crime of criminal conspiracy. In the case of Haradhan Chakrabarty vs Union of India, it was laid down that one person can never be held guilty of criminal conspiracy with a simple reason that one cannot conspire with oneself.
The next most important condition is that there shall be an agreement between the persons to do an illegal act. There shall no conspiracy lie if two or more persons are working individually towards the same end because there was no meeting of mid. Mere knowledge and discussion are not necessary because criminal conspiracy is a substantive offence. So, not only the intention but the presence of agreement to carry out the object of intention constitutes an offence.
Overt Act- The term overt act means an act might be innocent in itself but when it becomes part of a crime, means which can be used as a part of the preparation or active furtherance of crime. e.g. rental of a car to be used in the crime of bank robbery.
Participation- it is no emendatory for all the conspirators to be the participant from beginning to end. Where in pursuance of the agreement the conspirators commit offences individually or do illegal act having nexus to that object, all of them will be liable for the offence of criminal conspiracy disregarding the fact that some of them have not actively participated
Difference between section 34 and Section 120A- under section 34 actual commission of a crime is necessary but under section 120A actual commission is not necessary but mere engagement to do an illegal act is necessary. A single person can be convicted under section 3 but under section 120A single person cannot be convicted.
How to prove Conspiracy:
· By direct evidence or
· By circumstantial evidence
The Doctrine of agency according to section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act when persons agree in for an unlawful end, they become ad-hoc agents. As the fact is obvious that conspiracy is often done secretly so there are hardly any direct evidences available, generally it is proved with the help of circumstantial evidence. In the case of Mukesh vs. NCT of Delhi popularly known as Nirbhaya case criminal conspiracy was proved by considering the circumstantial evidence.
Important Judicial Pronouncement:
CBI/SIT vs Nalini popularly known as Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case. In this case, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India summarized the law relating to criminal conspiracy.
· There must be two or more persons,
· Agree to do an illegal act or a legal act by illegal act.
· In the case of a legal act by illegal means, the overt act is required to prove the conspiracy.
· The offence of criminal conspiracy is an exception to the general rule of crime, where intent alone does not constitute a crime.
· The actual commission of a crime is not necessary.
· Not all the conspirators need to agree to the common object at the same time they can join later.
· Mere knowledge about conspiracy would make an accused conspirator.
· There must be a meeting of minds between parties.
This provision talks about the punishment of criminal conspiracy mentioned in section 120A.
Bare provision: Punishment of criminal conspiracy.—
(1) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, 2[imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.
(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.]
Although the provision is self-explanatory, the point to be noted here is that this section applies to those who are members of conspiracy during its continuance. This is a continuing offence. The punishment of criminal conspiracy need not be confused with abetment as mentioned in clause 1. Criminal conspiracy is an independent offence and its punishment is separate.
The crime of criminal conspiracy is necessary and helpful in curbing the offences where people get power from more than two means. The support from the co-conspirators encourages to the more happening of such offences and sets an example before society. This law is indeed crucial.
 Haradhan Chakrabarty vs Union of India, AIR 1990 SC 1210.  CBI/SIT vs. Nalini, AIR 1999 SC 2640.  Criminal Appeal Nos. 607-608 of 2017.