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Conspiracy-theory of agency

Chapter VA of IPC speaks about Criminal Conspiracy. Section 120A defines criminal conspiracy which is as under:


“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.” Section 120B speaks about punishment of criminal conspiracy which is as under:


“120B. Punishment of criminal conspiracy.—(1) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, 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.

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.”


Objects and Reasons of the 1913 Amendment


The above mentioned sections were introduced by the amendment of 1913. It is important to notice the Objects and Reasons of the said amendment to understand that the underlying purpose of introducing Section 120-A was to make a mere agreement to do an illegal act or an act which is not illegal by illegal means, punishable.


Objects and Reasons are as follows:


“The sections of the Indian Penal Code which deal directly with the subject of conspiracy are those contained in Chapter V and Section 121- A of the Code. Under the latter provision, it is an offence to conspire to commit any of the offences punishable by Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code or to conspire to deprive the King of sovereignty of British India or any part thereof or to overawe by means of criminal force or show of criminal force the Government of India or any Local Government and to constitute a conspiracy under this Section. It is not necessary that any act or illegal omission should take place in pursuance thereof. Under Section 107, abetment includes engaging with one or more person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of a thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing. In other words, except in respect of the offences particularized in Section 121-A conspiracy per se is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code.” “On the other hand, by the common law of England, if two or more persons agree together to do anyting contrary to law, or to use unlawful means in the carrying out of an object not otherwise unlawful, the persons, who so agree, commit the offence of conspiracy. In other words, conspiracy in England may be defined as an agreement of two or more persons to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means, and the parties to such a conspiracy are liable to indictment.” “Experience has shown that dangerous conspiracies have entered into India which have for their object aims other than the commission of the offences specified in Section 121-A of the Indian Penal Code and that the existing law is inadequate to deal with modern conditions.

The present Bill is designed to assimilate the provisions of the Indian Penal Code to those of the English law with the additional safeguard that in the case of a conspiracy other than a conspiracy to commit an offence some overt act is necessary to bring the conspiracy within the purview of the criminal law. The Bill makes criminal conspiracy a substantive offence, and when such a conspiracy is to commit an offence punishable with death, or rigorous imprisonement for a term of two years or upwards, and no express provision is made in the Code, provides a punishment of the same nature as that which might be awarded for the abetment of such an offence. In all other cases of criminal conspiracy the punishment contemplated is imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months or with fine, or with both.” Prior to the amendment of the Code and the introduction of Sections 120-A and B, the doctrine of agency was applicable to ascertain the liability of the conspirators, however, conspiracy in itself was not an offence (except for certain offences). The amendment made conspiracy a substantive offence and rendered the mere agreement to commit an offence punishable. Prior to the amendment, unless an overt act took place in furtherance of the conspiracy it was not indictable (it would become indictable by virtue of being abetment).

The proposition that the mere agreement constitutes the offence has been accepted by Supreme Court in several judgments. Reference may be made to Major E.G. Barsay vs. State of Bombay (1962) 2 SCR 195 wherein this Court held that the the gist of the offence is an agreement to break the law. The parties to such an agreement will be guilty of criminal conspiracy, though the illegal act agreed to be done has not been done. It is not an ingredient of the offence that all the parties should agree to do a single illegal act. It may comprise the commission of a number of acts. The Court has held as under:-


“31….Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code defines “criminal conspiracy” and under that definition, “When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done, an illegal act, or an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy.”The gist of the offence is an agreement to break the law. The parties to such an agreement will be guilty of criminal conspiracy, though the illegal act agreed to be done has not been done. So too, it is not an ingredient of the offence that all the parties should agree to do a single illegal act. It may comprise the commission of a number of acts. Under Section 43 of the Indian Penal Code, an act would be illegal if it is an offence or if it is prohibited by law. Under the first charge the accused are charged with having conspired to do three categories of illegal acts, and the mere fact that all of them could not be convicted separately in respect of each of the offences has no relevancy in considering the question whether the offence of conspiracy has been committed. They are all guilty of the offence of conspiracy to do illegal acts, though for individual offences all of them may not be liable.



Theory of Agency and Conspiracy


An important facet of the Law of Conspiracy is that apart from it being a distinct offence, all conspirators are liable for the acts of each other of the crime or crimes which have been committed as a result of the conspiracy. This principle has been recognized right from the early judgment in Regina vs. Murphy (1873) 173 ER 502. In the said judgment Coleridge J. while summing up for the Jury stated as follows:


“...I am bound to tell you, that although the common design is the root of the charge, it is not necessary to prove that these two parties came together and actually agreed in terms to have this common design and to pursue it by comroeff means, and so to carry it into execution. This is not necessary, because in many cases of the most clearly established conspiracies there are no means of proving any such thing and neither law nor common sense requires that it should be proved. If you find that these two persons pursued by their acts the same object, often by the same means, one performing one part of an act, so as to complete it, with a view to the attainment of the object which they were pursuing, you will be at liberty to draw the conclusion that they have been engaged in a conspiracy to effect that object. The question you have to ask yourselves is, 'Had they this common design, and did they pursue it by these common means — the design being unlawful?' it is not necessary that it should be proved that these defendants met to concoct this scheme, nor is it necessary that they should have originated it. If a conspiracy be already formed, and a person joins it afterwards, he is equally guilty. You are to say whether, from the acts that have been proved, you are satisfied that these defendants were acting in concertin this matter.

If you are satisfied that there was concert between them, I am bound to say that being convinced of the conspiracy, it is not necessary that you should find both Mr. Murphy and Mr. Douglas doing each particular act, as after the fact of conspiracy is already established in your minds, whatever is either said or done by either of the defendants in pursuance of the common design, is, both in law and in common sense, to be considered as the acts of both.”


Each conspirator can be attributed each others actions in a conspiracy. Theory of agency applies and this rule existed even prior to the amendment of the Penal Code in India. This is reflected in the rule of evidence u/s 10 of the Evidence Act. Conspiracy is punishable independent of its fruition. The principle of agency as a rule of liability and not merely a rule of evidence has been accepted both by the Privy Council as well as by this Court.


The following judgments are relevant for this proposition:


(a) Babulal vs. Emperor, AIR 1938 PC 130, where the Privy Council held that:

"if several persons conspire to commit offences, and commit overt acts in pursuance of the conspiracy (a circumstance which makes the act of one the act of each and all the conspirators) these acts are committed in the course of the same transaction, which embraces the conspiracy and the acts done under it..."


(b) State of A.P. vs. Kandimalla Subbaiah (1962) 1 SCR 194, where this Court opined that where a number of offences are committed by several persons in pursuance of a conspiracy it is usual to charge them with those offences as well as with the offence of conspiracy to commit those offences, if the alleged offences flow out of the conspiracy, the appropriate form of charge would be a specific charge in respect of each of those offences along with the charge of conspiracy.


(c) State of H.P. vs. Krishan Lal Pardhan, (1987) 2 SCC 17 where it was held that the offence of criminal conspiracy consists of meeting of minds of two or more persons for agreeing to do or causing to be done an illegal act or an act by illegal means, and the performance of an act in terms thereof. If pursuant to the criminal conspiracy the conspirators commit several offences, then all of them will be liable for the offences even if some of them had not actively participated in the commission of the offences.



The offence under Section 120B is a crime between the parties to do a particular act. Association or relation to lead conspiracy is not enough to establish the intention to kill the deceased. To make it clear, to bring home the charge of conspiracy within the ambit of Section 120B, it is necessary to establish that there was an agreement between the parties for doing an unlawful act. It is difficult to establish conspiracy by direct evidence.


Since conspiracy is hatched in secrecy, to bring home the charge of conspiracy, it is relevant to decide conclusively the object behind it from the charges leveled against the accused and the facts of the case. The object behind it is the ultimate aim of the conspiracy. Further, many means might have been adopted to achieve this ultimate object. The means may even constitute different offences by themselves, but as long as they are adopted to achieve the ultimate object of the conspiracy, they are also acts of conspiracy.


In Ajay Aggarwal vs. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 1637, Supreme Court rejected the submission of the accused that as he was staying in Dubai and the conspiracy was initially hatched in Chandigarh and he did not play an active part in the commission of the acts which ultimately lead to the incident, thus, could not be liable for any offence, observing:


“8…..Section 120-A of the IPC defines ‘conspiracy’ to mean that when two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done an illegal act, or an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated as “criminal conspiracy”. 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 furtherance thereof. Section 120-B of the IPC prescribes punishment for criminal conspiracy. It is not necessary that each conspirator must know all the details of the scheme nor be a participant at every stage. It is necessary that they should agree for design or object of the conspiracy. Conspiracy is conceived as having three elements:

(1) agreement

(2) between two or more persons by whom the agreement is effected; and

(3) a criminal object, which may be either the ultimate aim of the agreement, or may constitute the means, or one of the means by which that aim is to be accomplished.

It is immaterial whether this is found in the ultimate objects. The common law definition of ‘criminal conspiracy’ was stated first by Lord Denman in Jones case (1832) that an indictment for conspiracy must “charge a conspiracy to do an unlawful act by unlawful means…..” The Court, thus, held that an agreement between two or more persons to do an illegal act or legal act by illegal means is criminal conspiracy.

Conspiracy itself is a substantive offence and is distinct from the offence to be committed, for which the conspiracy was entered into. A conspiracy is a continuing offence and continues to subsist and is committed wherever one of the conspirators does an act or series of acts. So long as its performance continues, it is a continuing offence till it is executed or rescinded or frustrated by choice or necessity. A crime is complete as soon as the agreement is made, but it is not a thing of the moment. It does not end with the making of the agreement. It will continue so long as there are two or more parties to it intending to carry into effect the design. (Vide: Sudhir Shantilal Mehta vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, (2009) 8 SCC 1)



In Yash Pal Mittal vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1977 SC 2433, the rule was laid down as follows:

“The very agreement, concert or league is the ingredient of the offence. It is not necessary that all the conspirators must know each and every detail of the conspiracy as long as they are co-

participators in the main object of the conspiracy. There may be so many devices and techniques adopted to achieve the common goal of the conspiracy and there may be division of performances in the chain of actions with one object to achieve the real end of which every collaborator must be aware and in which each one of them must be interested. There must be unity of object or purpose but there may be plurality of means sometimes even unknown to one another, amongst the conspirators. In achieving the goal, several offences may be committed by some of the conspirators even unknown to the others. The only relevant factor is that all means adopted and illegal acts done must be and purported to be in furtherance of the object of the conspiracy even though there may be sometimes misfire or over-shooting by some of the conspirators.”



For an offence under Section 120B IPC, the prosecution need not necessarily prove that the conspirators expressly agreed to do or cause to be done the illegal act, the agreement may be proved by necessary implication. It is not necessary that each member of the conspiracy must know all the details of the conspiracy. The offence can be proved largely from the inferences drawn from the acts or illegal omission committed by the conspirators in pursuance of a common design. Being a continuing offence, if any acts or omissions which constitute an offence are done in India or outside its territory, the conspirators continuing to be the parties to the conspiracy and since part of the acts were done in India, they would obviate the need to obtain the sanction of the Central Government. All of them need not be present in India nor continue to remain in India. The entire agreement must be viewed as a whole and it has to be ascertained as to what in fact the conspirators intended to do or the object they wanted to achieve. (Vide: R.K. Dalmia vs. Delhi Administration, AIR 1962 SC 1821; Lennart Schussler & Anr. vs. Director of Enforcement & Anr., (1970) 1 SCC 152; Shivanarayan Laxminarayan Joshi vs. State of Maharashtra, (1980) 2 SCC 465 and Mohammad Usman Mohammad Hussain Maniyar and Another vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1981 SC 1062)


In Yogesh @ Sachin Jagdish Joshi vs. State of Maharashtra, (2008) 10 SCC 394, this Court held:


“25 Thus, it is manifest that the meeting of minds of two or more persons for doing an illegal act or an act by illegal means is sine qua non of the criminal conspiracy but it may not be possible to prove the agreement between them by direct proof. Nevertheless, existence of the conspiracy and its objective can be inferred from the surrounding circumstances and the conduct of the accused. But the incriminating circumstances must form a chain of events from which a conclusion about the guilt of the accused could be drawn. It is well settled that an offence of conspiracy is a substantive offence and renders the mere agreement to commit an offence punishable, even if an offence does not take place pursuant to the illegal agreement.”


In Nirmal Singh Kahlon vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2009 SC 984, Supreme Court following Ram Lal Narang vs. State (Delhi Admn.), AIR 1979 SC 1791, held that a conspiracy may be a general one and a separate one, meaning thereby, a larger conspiracy and a smaller one which may develop in successive stages.

In K.R. Purushothaman vs. State of Kerala, (2005) 12 SCC 631, this Court held:


“11. Section 120-A IPC defines ‘criminal conspiracy’. According to this section when two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done

(i) an illegal act, or (ii) an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy.…..The existence of conspiracy and its objects are usually deduced from the circumstances of the case and the conduct of the accused involved in the conspiracy…”


The agreement, sine qua non of conspiracy, may be proved either by direct evidence which is rarely available in such cases or it may be inferred from utterances, writings, acts, omissions and conduct of the parties to the conspiracy which is usually done. In view of Section 10 of the Evidence Act anything said, done or written by those who enlist their support to the object of conspiracy and those who join later or make their exit before completion of the object in furtherance of their common intention will be relevant facts to prove that each one of them can justifiably be treated as a conspirator.” (See Also: Kehar Singh & Ors. vs. State (Delhi Admn.), AIR 1988 SC 1883)


In Firozuddin Basheeruddin & Ors. vs. State of Kerala, (2001) 7 SCC 596, this Court held:

“Like most crimes, conspiracy requires an act (actus reus) and an accompanying mental state (mens rea). The agreement constitutes the act, and the intention to achieve the unlawful objective of that agreement constitutes the required mental state…..The law punishes conduct that threatens to produce the harm, as well as conduct that has actually produced it. Contrary to the usual rule that an attempt to commit a crime merges with the completed offence, conspirators may be tried and punished for both the conspiracy and the completed crime. The rationale of conspiracy is that the required objective manifestation of disposition to criminality is provided by the act of agreement. Conspiracy is a clandestine activity. Persons generally do not form illegal covenants openly. In the interests of security, a person may carry out his part of a conspiracy without even being informed of the identity of his co-conspirators.......

Conspiracy is not only a substantive crime, it also serves as a basis for holding one person liable for the crimes of others in cases where application of the usual doctrines of complicity would not render that person liable. Thus, one who enters into a conspiratorial relationship is liable for every reasonably foreseeable crime committed by every other member of the conspiracy in furtherance of its objectives, whether or not he knew of the crimes or aided in their commission. The rationale is that criminal acts done in furtherance of a conspiracy may be sufficiently dependent upon the encouragement and support of the group as a whole to warrant treating each member as a causal agent to each act. Under this view, which of the conspirators committed the substantive offence would be less significant in determining the defendant's liability than the fact that the crime was performed as a part of a larger division of labour to which the accused had also contributed his efforts.

Regarding admissibility of evidence, loosened standards prevail in a conspiracy trial. Contrary to the usual rule, in conspiracy prosecutions, any declaration by one conspirator, made in furtherance of a conspiracy and during its pendency, is admissible against each co-

conspirator. Despite the unreliability of hearsay evidence, it is admissible in conspiracy prosecutions………Thus conspirators are liable on an agency theory for statements of co-conspirators, just as they are for the overt acts and crimes committed by their confréres.” (See also: State (NCT of Delhi) vs. Navjot Sandhu @ Afsan Guru, (2005) 11 SCC 600)


In Ram Narayan Popli vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, (2003) 3 SCC 641, this Court held:

“…….The elements of a criminal conspiracy have been stated to be: (a) an object to be accomplished, (b) a plan or scheme embodying means to accomplish that object, (c) an agreement or understanding between two or more of the accused persons whereby, they become definitely committed to cooperate for the accomplishment of the object by the means embodied in the agreement, or by any effectual means, and (d) in the jurisdiction where the statute required an overt act. The essence of a criminal conspiracy is the unlawful combination and ordinarily the offence is complete when the combination is framed. From this, it necessarily follows that unless the statute so requires, no overt act need be done in furtherance of the conspiracy, and that the object of the combination need not be accomplished, in order to constitute an indictable offence. Law making conspiracy a crime is designed to curb immoderate power to do mischief which is gained by a combination of the means. The encouragement and support which co-conspirators give to one another rendering enterprises possible which, if left to individual effort, would have been impossible, furnish the ground for visiting conspirators and abettors with condign punishment. The conspiracy is held to be continued and renewed as to all its members wherever and whenever any member of the conspiracy acts in furtherance of the common design.”

In Mohd. Khalid vs. State of West Bengal, (2002) 7 SCC 334, this Court held:

“Where trustworthy evidence establishing all links of circumstantial evidence is available the confession of a co-accused as to conspiracy even without corroborative evidence can be taken into consideration.”


Yakub Abdul Razak Memon Vs. The State of Maharashtra,Through CBI , Bombay [MARCH 21, 2013]

In the present case, the conspiracy might have been started in Dubai but ultimately it continued here in India and a part of the object was executed in India and even in the conspiratorial meetings at Dubai, the matter was discussed with respect to India and amongst Indian citizens.

Further, as far as the present accused is concerned, the fact that he was constantly present at Al-Hussaini building, where the major part of the plans have been made and executed, is established, and his active involvement has also emerged from the evidence on record as to how he was dealing with the so called men of Tiger, managing the ill gotten money of Tiger, booking tickets and actively working for confirming them for the conspirators. Further, there is enough evidence of meeting with co-accused and his actively working in furtherance of the conspiracy. The present accused need not be present at each and every meeting for being held to be a part of the conspiracy."


Section 10 of the Evidence Act further provides a unique and special rule of evidence to be followed in cases of conspiracy. Section 10 reads as under:


“10. Things said or done by conspirator in reference to common design-- Where there is reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong, anything said, done or written 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 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.” Illustrations

(i) Reasonable ground exists for believing that A has joined in a conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India.

(ii) The facts that B procured arms in Europe for the purpose of the conspiracy, C collected money in Calcutta for a like object, D persuaded persons to join the conspiracy in Bombay, E published writings advocating the object in view at Agra, and F transmitted from Delhi to G at Kabul the money which C had collected at Calcutta, and the contents of a letter written by H giving an account of the conspiracy, are each relevant, both to prove the existence of the conspiracy, and to prove A' s complicity in it, although he may have been ignorant of all of them, and although the persons by whom they were done were strangers to him, and although they may have taken place before he joined the conspiracy or after he left it.

It is to be seen that there are three conditions in the Section. One is, before utilizing the section for admitting certain statements of the co- accused from a confession, there should be a reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong. According to this Section, only when this condition is satisfied in a given case, then only the question of utilizing the statement of an accused against the co-accused can be taken into consideration. Thus, as per Section 10, the following principles are agreed upon unanimously:-


1. There shall be prima facie evidence affording a reasonable ground for the Court to believe that two or more persons were part of a conspiracy to commit a wrongful act or offence;


2. Once this condition was fulfilled, anything said, done or written by any of its members, in reference to their common intention, will be considered as evidence against other co-conspirators;


3. This fact would be evidence for the purpose of existence of a conspiracy and that the persons were a part of such conspiracy.


This Court, in Nalini (supra), observed as under:


(a) Justice Thomas (para 106-113) Theory of Agency, according to him, is the basic principle which underlines Section 10 of the Evidence Act. He says that the first condition for application of Section 10 is “reasonable ground to believe” that the conspirators have conspired together based on prima facie evidence. If this condition is fulfilled, anything said by any of the conspirators becomes substantive evidence for the purpose of corroboration if the statement is in reference to their common intention (This is much wider than its English counterpart which uses the expression in furtherance of the common object). The arrest of a conspirator will not cut-off his connection with the conspiracy.




In Ajay Agarwal Vs. Union of India & Ors. [1993 (3) SCC 609], wherein the following observations were made in paragraphs 8 and 24:-


"8. ...... In Chapter VA, conspiracy was brought on statute by the Amendment Act, 1913 (8 of 1913). Section 120-A of the I.P.C. defines 'conspiracy' to mean that when two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done an illegal act, or an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated as "criminal conspiracy. 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 furtherance thereof. Section 120-B of the I.P.C. prescribes punishment for criminal conspiracy. It is not necessary that each conspirator must know all the details of the scheme nor be a participant at every stage. It is necessary that they should agree for design or object of the conspiracy. Conspiracy is conceived as having three elements: (1) agreement (2) between two or more persons by whom the agreement is effected; and (3) a criminal object, which may be either the ultimate aim of the agreement, or may constitute the means, or one of the means by which that aim is to be accomplished. It is immaterial whether this is found in the ultimate objects. The common law definition of 'criminal conspiracy' was stated first by Lord Denman in Jones' case (1832 B & AD 345) that an indictment for conspiracy must "charge a conspiracy to do an unlawful act by unlawful means" and was elaborated by Willies, J. on behalf of the Judges while referring the question to the House of Lords in Mulcahy v. Reg (1868) L.R. 3 H.L. 306 and the House of Lords in unanimous decision reiterated in Quinn v. Leathem 1901 AC 495 as under:

`A conspiracy consists not merely in the intention of two or more, but in the agreement of two or more to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. So long as such a design rests in intention only it is not indictable. When two agree to carry it into effect, the very plot is an act in itself, and the act of each of the parties, promise against promise, actus contra actum, capable of being enforced, if lawful, punishable of for a criminal object or for the use of criminal means. (emphasis supplied)'

24. A conspiracy thus, is a continuing offence and continues to subsist and committed wherever one of the conspirators does an act or series of acts. So long as its performance continues, it is a continuing offence till it is executed or rescinded or frustrated by choice or necessity. A crime is complete as soon as the agreement is made, but it is not a thing of the moment. It does not end with the making of the agreement. It will continue so long as there are two or more parties to it intending to carry into effect the design. Its continuance is a threat to the society against which it was aimed at and would be dealt with as soon as that jurisdiction can properly claim the power to do so. The conspiracy designed or agreed abroad will have the same effect as in India, when part of the acts, pursuant to the agreement are agreed to be finalized or done, attempted or even frustrated and vice versa."


In Nazir Khan & Ors. Vs. State of Delhi [2003 (8) SCC 461], the Court observed as under:-


"16. In Halsbury's Laws of England (vide 4th Ed. Vol. 11, page 44, page 58), the English Law as to conspiracy has been stated thus:


"Conspiracy consists in the agreement of two or more persons to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. It is an indication offence at common law, the punishment for which is imprisonment or fine or both in the discretion of the Court.

The essence of the offence of conspiracy is the fact of combination by agreement. The agreement may be express or implied, or in part express and in part implied. The conspiracy arises and the offence is committed as soon as the agreement is made; and the offence continues to be committed so long as the combination persists, that is until the conspiratorial agreement is terminated by completion of its performance or by abandonment or frustration or however, it may be. The actus rues in a conspiracy is the agreement to execute the illegal conduct, not the execution of it. It is not enough that two or more persons pursued the same unlawful object at the same time or in the same place; it is necessary to show a meeting of minds, a consensus to effect an unlawful purpose. It is not, however, necessary that each conspirator should have been in communication with every other."



Supreme Court of India

Mohd.Arif @ Ashfaq vs State Of Nct Of Delhi on 10 August, 2011


The provisions of Section 120A and 120B, IPC have brought the law of conspiracy in India in line with the English Law by making the overt act unessential when the conspiracy is to commit any punishable offence. The English Law on this matter is well settled. Russell on crime (12 Ed.Vol. I, p.202) may be usefully noted-


"The gist of the offence of conspiracy then lies, not in doing the act, or effecting the purpose for which the conspiracy is formed, nor in attempting to do them, nor in inciting others to do them, but in the forming of the scheme or agreement between the parties, agreement is essential. More knowledge, or even discussion, of the plan is not, per se, enough."


Glanville Williams in the "Criminal Law" (Second Ed. P. 382) states-


"The question arose in an lowa case, but it was discussed in terms of conspiracy rather than of accessoryship. D, who had a grievance against P, told E that if he would whip P someone would pay his fine. E replied that he did not want anyone to pay his fine, that he had a grievance of his own against P and that he would whip him at the first opportunity. E whipped P. D was acquitted of conspiracy because there was no agreement for 'concert of action', no agreement to 'co-operate'."


In State of Maharashtra and others vs. Som Nath Thapa and others (1996 (4) SCC 659 at 668) this Court referred to its earlier decision in Ajay Aggarwal case (1993 (3) SCC 609) and said :-


"The aforesaid decisions, weighty as they are, lead us to conclude that to establish a charge of conspiracy knowledge about indulgence in either an illegal act or a legal act by illegal means is necessary. In some cases, intent of unlawful use being made of the goods or services in question may be inferred from the knowledge itself. This apart, the prosecution has not to establish that a particular unlawful use was intended, so long as the goods or service in question could not be put to any lawful use. Finally, when the ultimate offence consists of a chain of actions, it would not be necessary for the prosecution to establish, to bring home the charge of conspiracy, that each of the conspirators had the knowledge of what the collaborator would do, so long as it is known that the collaborator would put the goods or service to an unlawful use."


In Regina vs. Ardalan & Ors. [(1972) 1 WLR 463 (CA)] the appellants were charged and convicted for the offence of conspiracy. On appeal, reference of the Trial Judge to "the cartwheel type of conspiracy"; about "sub-conspiracies" and also about "the chain type of conspiracy" was criticised. The Appeal Court said that care must be taken that words and phrases such as "wheels", "cartwheels", "chain", "sub-conspiracies" and so on are used only to illustrate and to clarify the principle and for no other purpose. It said:


"It is right to say that these epithets, or labels, such as "cartwheels" (or wheel without rim) and "chains" have a certain respectable ancestry and have been used in a number of conspiracy cases that from time to time have come before the courts. Metaphors are invaluable for the purpose of illustrating a particular point or a particular concept to a jury, but there is a limit to the utility of a metaphor and there is sometimes a danger, if metaphors are used excessively, that a point of time arises at which the metaphor tends to obscure rather than to clarify."


In United States vs. Falcone et al. [109 Federal Reporter (2d Series) 579 (Circuit Court of Appeals - the Second Circuit)], the appellants were convicted for a conspiracy to operate illicit stills. Case against the appellant and others who constituted one set of conspirators was that they supplied sugar etc. to the other group of conspirators who were operating illicit stills. The question before the court was whether the sellers of goods, in themselves innocent, became conspirators with the buyer because they knew that the buyer meant to use the goods to commit a crime. Judge Learned Hand speaking for the Court said:


"There are indeed instances of criminal liability of the same kind, where the law imposes punishment merely because the accused did not forbear to do that from which the wrong was likely to follow; but in prosecutions for conspiracy or abetting, his attitude towards the forbidden undertaking must be more positive. It is not enough that he does not forego a normally lawful activity, of the fruits of which he knows that others will make an unlawful use; he must in some sense promote their venture himself, make it his own, have a stake in its outcome. The distinction is especially important today when so many prosecutors seek to sweep within the drag-net of conspiracy all those who have been associated in any degree whatever with the main offenders. That there are opportunities of great oppression in such a doctrine is very plain, and it is only by circumscribing the scope of such all comprehensive indictments that they can be avoided. We may agree that morally the defendants at bar should have refused to sell to illicit distillers; but, both morally and legally, to do so was toto coelo different from joining with them in running the stills."


Falcon and similarly situated appellants were acquitted of the charge of conspiracy.


United States then moved the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the aforesaid judgment of the Circuit Court setting aside the conviction of the respondents Felcon and others. The Government, however, did not argue that the conviction of conspiracy could rest on proof alone of knowingly supplied an illicit distillers who are not conspiring with others. It was conceded that the act of supplying or some other proof must import an agreement or concert of action between buyer and seller which admittedly was not present in the case. {United States of America vs. Salvatore Falcone, & Ors. [85 Lawyers Ed. (311 US) 205]}.


in Sardar Sardul Singh Caveeshar vs. State of Maharashtra [(1964) 2 SCR 378] where this Court said: