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Section 34- Common intention

Constructive liability section 34 :

Provides for constructive criminal liability i.e. liability of all the acts of one or someone of them making the rest also liable. Section 149 also deals with the issue of constructive criminality.

Section 34 is an interpretive provision and rule of evidence and embodies the principle that if two or more persons intend to do a thing jointly they can be convicted for acts of one another committed in furtherance of common intention . Section 34 does not create a substantive offence it is only a rule of evidence .

Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code recognizes the principle of vicarious liability in the criminal jurisprudence. It makes a person liable for action of an offence not committed by him but by another person with whom he shared the common intention. It is a rule of evidence and does not create a substantive offence. The section gives statutory recognition to the commonsense principle that if more than two persons intentionally do a thing jointly, it is just the same as if each of them had done it individually. There is no gainsaying that a common intention pre-supposes prior concert, which requires a pre- arranged plan of the accused participating in an offence. Such a pre- concert or pre-planning may develop on the spot or during the course of commission of the offence but the crucial test is that such plan must precede the act constituting an offence. Common intention can be formed previously or in the course of occurrence and on a spur of moment. The existence of a common intention is a question of fact in each case to be proved mainly as a matter of inference from the circumstances of the case.Dominant feature for attracting Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is the element of participation in absence resulting in the ultimate "criminal act". The "act" referred to in latter part of Section 34 means the ultimate criminal act with which the accused is charged of sharing the common intention. The accused is, therefore, made responsible for the ultimate criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all. The section does not envisage the separate act by all the accused persons for becoming responsible for the ultimate criminal act. If such an interpretation is accepted, the purpose of Section 34 shall be rendered infructuous. Participation in the crime in furtherance of the common intention cannot conceive of some independent criminal act by all accused persons, besides the ultimate criminal act because for that individual act law takes care of making such accused responsible under the other provisions of the Code. The word "act" used in Section 34 denotes a series of acts as a single act. What is required under law is that the accused persons sharing the common intention must be physically present at the scene of occurrence and be shown to not have dissauded themselves from the intended criminal act for which they shared the common intention. Culpability under Section 34 cannot be excluded by mere distance from the scene of occurrence. The presumption of constructive intention, however, has to be arrived at only when the court can, with judicial servitude, hold that the accused must have pre-conceived result that ensued in furtherance of the common intention. A Division Bench of the Patna High Court in Shatrughan Patar & Ors. v. Emperor [AIR 1919 Patna 111] held that it is only when a court with some certainty hold that a particular accused must have pre-conceived or pre-meditated the result which ensued or acted in concert with others in order to bring about that result, that Section 34 may be applied.

In Barendra Kumar Ghosh vs. King Emperor [AIR 1925 PC 1] the Judicial Committee dealt with the scope of Section 34 dealing with the acts done in furtherance of the common intention, making all equally liable for the results of all the acts of others. It was observed:

".......the words of S.34 are not to be eviscerated by reading them in this exceedingly limited sense. By S.33 a criminal act in S.34 includes a series of acts and, further, "act" includes omissions to act, for example, an omission to interfere in order to prevent a murder being done before one's very eyes. By S.37, when any offence is committed by means of several acts whoever intentionally co-operates in the commission of that offence by doing any one of those acts, either singly or jointly with any other person, commits that offence. Even if the appellant did nothing as he stood outside the door, it is to be remembered that in crimes as in other things 'they also serve who only stand and wait'. By S.38, when several persons are engaged or concerned in the commission of a criminal act, they may be guilty of different offences by means of that act. Read together, these sections are reasonably plain. S.34 deals with the doing of separate acts, similar of diverse, by several persons; if all are done in furtherance of a common intention, each person is liable for the result of them all, as if he had done them himself, for 'that act' and 'the act' in the latter part of the section must include the whole action covered by 'a criminal act' in the first part, because they refer to it. S.37 provides that, when several acts are done so as to result together in the commission of an offence, the doing of any one of them, with an intention to co-operate in the offence (which may not be the same as an intention common to all), makes the actor liable to be punished for the commission of the offence. S.38 provides for different punishments for different offences as an alternative to one punishment for one offence, whether the persons engaged or concerned in the commission of a criminal act are set in motion by the one intention or by the other."

Object - the common belief that more the people less the guilt has in law , no application to the act or commission of a crime. Gravity of a crime cannot be diluted because it is committed by several persons , nor can quantum of liability be redistributed among the doers because it is very difficult to pinpoint the separate participation of each . If the law allows such distribution of a liability , no one would get the punishment intended by the law . And , it would encourage group criminals .

Section 34 is framed to meet cases in which it may be difficult to distinguish between the acts of individual members of a party or to prove exactly what part played by each of them . The reason why all are deemed guilty in such cases is that presence of accomplices gives encouragement , support and protection to the person actually committing the act.

Essential ingredients of Section 34

1. There was a common intention , in the sense of a pre arranged plan , between the two and

2. That the person sought to be made liable had , in some way participated in the act.