top of page
Search
  • LLC

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.

Thus, unless common intention and participation both are present , section 34 will not apply. The common intention is the mens rea necessary to constitute the very offence that has been committed . It is bare desire to commit a criminal act without any contemplation of the consequences . Participation in the crime in furtherance of the common intention is sine qua non under section 34. 1. Common intention a) COMMON INTENTION IS DIFFERENT FROM SAME / SIMILAR INTENTION - Common intention necessarily implies a pre-arranged plan or prior concert or prior meetings of minds. Thus there is a sharing of the purpose (its like a threat in a necklace that runs through all the beads) , which is lacking in a case where several persons have the same or similar intention . Several persons can simultaneously attack a man and each can have the same or similar intention namely intention to kill and each can individually inflict a separate fatal blow and yet none would have the common intention required by the section because there was no prior meeting of minds to form a pre arranged plan . At bottom, it is a question of fact in every case and however similar the circumstances, facts in one case cannot be used as a precedent to determine the conclusion on the facts in another. All that is necessary is either to have direct proof of prior concert, or proof of circumstances which necessarily lead to that inference, or, as we prefer to put it in the time-honoured way, "the incriminating facts must be incompatible with the innocence of the accused and incapable of explanation on any other reasonable hypothesis". (Sarkar's Evidence, 8th edition, page 30). For an inference of common intention being drawn for the purposes of Section 34, the evidence and the circumstances of the case should establish, without any room for doubt, that a meeting of minds and a fusion of ideas had taken place amongst different accused and in prosecution of it the overt acts of the accused persons flowed out. The King Emperor vs. Barendra Kumar Ghose [AIR 1924 Cal. 257] which was later approved by the Privy Council dealt with the scope of Section 34 in extenso and noted its effects from all possible interpretations put by various High Courts in the country and the distinguished authors on the subject. The Court did not agree with the limited construction given by Stephen,J. in Emperor v. Nirmal Kanta Roy [1914 (41) Cal.1072] and held that such an interpretation, if accepted, would lead to disastrous results. Concurring with Mookerjee,J. and giving the section wider view Richardson,J. observed:


"It appears to me that section 34 regards the act done as the united act of the immediate perpetrator and his confederates present at the time and that the language used is susceptible of that meaning. The language follows a common mode of speech. In R. v. Salmon [1880 (6) QBD 79] three men had been negligently firing at a mark. One of them - it was not known which - had unfortunately killed a boy in the rear of the mark. They were all held guilty of manslaughter. Lord Coleridge, C.J. said: -'The death resulted from the action of the three and they are all liable'. Stephen,J. said:- 'Firing a rifle' under such circumstances 'is a highly dangerous act, and all are responsible; for they unite to fire at the spot in question and they all omit to take any precautions whatever to prevent danger. Privy Council in Mahboob Shah vs. Emperor [AIR 1945 PC 118]. Referring to Section 34 prior to its amendment in 1870 wherein it was provided:


"When a criminal act is done by several persons, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act was done by him alone."


it was noticed that by amendment, the words "in furtherance of common intention of all" were inserted after the word "persons" and before the word "each" so as to make the object of Section clear. Dealing with the scope of Section, as it exists today, it was held:


"Section 34 lays down a principle of joint liability in the doing of a criminal act. The section does not say 'the common intention of all' nor does it say 'an intention common to all'. Under the section, the essence of that liability is to be found in the existence of a common intention animating the accused leading to the doing of a criminal act in furtherance of such intention. To provide the aid of S.34 successfully, it must be shown that the criminal act complained against was done by one of the accused persons in the furtherance of the common intention of all; if this is shown, then liability for the crime may be imposed on any one of the persons in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone. This being the principle, it is clear to their Lordships that common intention within the meaning of the section implies a pre- arranged plan, and to convict the accused of an offence applying the section it should be proved that the criminal act was done in concert pursuant to the pre-arranged plan. As has been often observed, it is difficult if not impossible to procure direct evidence to prove the intention of an individual; in most cases it has to be inferred from this act or conduct or other relevant circumstances of the case." Supreme Court of India

Pandurang, Tukia And Bhillia vs The State Of Hyderabad on 3 December, 1954 Now in the case of section 34 we think it is well established that a common intention presupposes prior concert. It requires a pre-arranged plan because before a man can be vicariously convicted for the criminal act of another, the act must have been done in furtherance of the common intention of them all: Mahbub Shah v. King-Emperor(). Accordingly there must have been a prior meeting of minds. Several persons can simultaneously attack a man and each can have the same intention, namely the intention to kill, and each can individually inflict a separate fatal blow and yet none would have the common intention required by the section because there was no prior meeting of minds to form a pre-arranged plan. In a case like that, each would be individually liable for whatever injury he caused but none could be vicariously convicted for the act of any of the others; and if the prosecution cannot prove that his separate blow was a fatal one he cannot be convicted of the murder however clearly an intention to kill could be proved in his case: Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. King- Emperor() and Mahbub Shah v. King-Emperor. As their Lordships say in the latter case, "the partition which divides their bounds is often very thin: nevertheless, the distinction is real and substantial, and if overlooked will result in miscarriage of justice".


The plan need not be elaborate, nor is a long interval of time required. It could arise and be formed suddenly, as for example, when one man calls on bystanders to help him kill a given individual and they, either by their words or their acts, indicate their assent to him and join him in the assault. There is then the necessary meeting of the minds. There is a pre-arranged plan however hastily formed and rudely conceived. But pre-arrangement there must be and premeditated concert. It is not enough, as in the latter Privy Council case, to have the same intention independently of each other, e.g., the intention to rescue another and, if necessary, to kill those who oppose. Mere presence together is not sufficient to hold that both accused shared the common intention to murder a person . IN STATE OF UP V. ROHAN SINGH (1996 Cr. LJ 2884 SC) A, B, C and D went to the house of the complainant . A and B were armed with guns while C and D had lathis. C and D exhorted A and B to kill two persons present in the house . A fired a shot at one person killing him , while B fired a shot at another person injuring him . It was held that at best the two respondents shared a similar intention to shoot at the victims , but that was not sufficient for drawing of an inference to show that they shared common intention. ii) Common intention can be formed at the spur of the moment (eo instanti) - Pre arranged plan need not be elaborated , nor is a long interval time required . It could arise and be formed suddenly. In other words, there is no rule that a common intention pre- supposes prior concert ; it can be formed previously or in course of occurrence and on the spur of the moment.

the plan may develop on the spot during the course of commission of an offence , but plan must precede the act constituting the offence (i.e it must be anterior in point of time to the commission of crime showing prior concert. Thus , where during a fight a person calls the by-standers to help him kill a person and they join him ; there is then necessary meeting of the minds or formation of a pre arranged plan though hastily formed and rudely conceived . However , in such case it could be argued that all those , who come may come with different designs / intentions . If they immediately engage in the transaction , it will be a very difficult task to discover whether they had any common intention , from their acts alone. (Ramsakal Koiri And Ors. vs The State on 1 February, 1955) The pre arranged plan can come into existence the moment one person calls another for attacking a third , even though the length of time between calling and the commission of the crime was only a few seconds . And when both of them attack that third person , a common intention has come into existence before the attack is made.

Similarly , where a during a fight , a person intervenes to stop the fight and the intervener is attacked by more persons than one , such persons can be said to have the common intention of preventing the intervener from rescuing the victim of their attack and they all are liable for an injury. iii) In furtherance of common intention of all - The criminal act must've been done for executing the common intention of all .The words "in furtherance" suggest that 34 is applicable also where the act actually done is not exactly the act jointly intended by the conspirators to be done ; otherwise , the words would not be needed at all . However, the act should not be extraneous of the common intention , or is done in opposition to it . Acts done in excess of common intention will not make other liable. Shankarlal Kachrabhai And Others vs State Of Gujarat AIR 1965 SC 1260 "To invoke the aid of s. 34 successfully, it must be shown that the criminal act complained against was done by one of the accused persons in the furtherance of the common intention of all; if this is shown, then liability for the crime may be imposed on any one of the persons in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone. This being the principle, it is clear to their Lordships that common intention within the meaning of the section implies a pre-arranged plan, and to convict the accused of an offence applying the section it should be proved that the criminal act was done in concert pursuant to the pre-arranged plan. As has been often observed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to procure direct evidence to prove the intention of an individual; in most cases it has to be inferred from his act or conduct or other relevant circumstances of the case."

It is, therefore, clear that the criminal act mentioned in s. 34 of the Indian Penal Code is the result of the concerted action of more than one person; if the said result was reached in furtherance of the common intention, each person is liable for the result as if he had done it himself. The question is what is the meaning of the expression "in furtherance, of the common intention". The dictionary meaning of the word "furtherance" is "advancement or promotion". If four persons have a common intention to kill A, they will have to do many acts in promotion or prosecution of that design in order to fulfill it. Some illustrations will clarify the point. Four persons intend to kill A, who is expected to be found in a house. All of them participate in different ways. One of them attempts to enter the house, but is stopped by the sentry and he shoots the sentry. Though the common intention was to kill A, the shooting of the sentry is in furtherance of the said common intention. So s. 34 applies. Take another illustration. If one of the said accused enters the room where the intended victim usually sleeps, but somebody other than the intended victim is sleeping in the room, and on a mistaken impression he shoots him. The shooting of the wrong man is in furtherance of the common intention and so S. 34 applies.

a third variation of the illustration: The intended victim has a twin brother who exactly resembles him and the accused who is entrusted with the part of shooting the intended victim, on a mistaken impression, shoots the twin brother. The shooting of the twin brother is also in furtherance of the common intention. Here also s. 34 applies. If that much is conceded we do not see any justification why the killing of another under a mistaken impression of identity is not in furtherance of the common intention to kill the intended victim. If the common intention was to kill A and if one of the accused kills B to wreak out his private vengeance, it cannot possibly be in furtherance of the common intention for which others can be constructively made liable. But, on the other hand if he kills B bona fide believing that he is A, we do not see any incongruity in holding that the killing of B is in furtherance of the common intention. (So the shooting of a wrong man is in furtherance of common intention and section 34 will apply). iv) Evidence for common intention - it can be inferred from direct evidence , also from facts and circumstances , and the whole conduct of all the persons concerned and not only from an individual act of one of them . Mere presence at the scene of the crime may in certain circumstances amount to participation in crime . But it has to be established by cogent proof (e.g. person's participation was to facilitate the offence). Maqsoodan & Others vs State Of Uttar Pradesh 1983 SCR (2) 45 The prosecution case against the 12 accused persons was that, armed with deadly weapons, they waylaid and assaulted the deceased and three others accompanying him, and that

someone among another group of 12 of their associates standing at some distance constantly incited the accused with the words "kill, kill". The deceased received serious

injuries and died on the following morning.

While the appellant was convicted under s. 302 Indian Penal Code and sentenced to death, ten other accused were convicted and sentenced variously. One of them was

acquitted.On appeal the High Court reduced the sentence of death passed on the appellant to imprisonment for life. Convictions of four of the 11 accused were altered from

under s. 302/149 and s. 307/149 to one under ss. 302/34 and 307/34 I.P.C. Common intention is a question of fact. It is subjective. But it can be inferred from facts and circumstances. In this case, the appellants were related. All of them were armed with deadly weapons. They were together. There was an order by some one, "kill, kill", when all of them simultaneously attacked the deceased and P.Ws. 1, 2, 3, and C.W. 1. After the occurrence, they left together; they were later arrested from the same place. The High Court therefore rightly held that the appellants caused the injuries with the common intention, and was justified in convicting the appellants under Section 302/34 of the Penal Code. We, therefore, affirm the conviction and sentences inflicted by the High Court on Maqsoodan, Madan Mohan, Prayagnath and Nando, appellants in Criminal Appeal No. 175 of 1974 and dismiss the appeal. In Surender Chauhan v. State of M.P. [2000 (4) SCC 110] this Court held that apart from the fact that there should be two or more accused, two factors must be established - (i) common intention and (ii) participation of the accused in the commission of the offence. If a common intention is proved but no overt act is attributed to the individual accused, Section 34 will be attracted as essentially it involves vicarious liability. Referring to its earlier judgment this Court held:

"Under Section 34 a person must be physically present at the actual commission of the crime for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the offence, the commission of which is the aim of the joint criminal venture. Such presence of those who in one way or the other facilitate the execution of the common design is itself tantamount to actual participation in the criminal act. The essence of Section 34 is simultaneous consensus of the minds of persons participating in the criminal action to bring about a particular result. Such consensus can be developed at the spot and thereby intended by all of them (Ramaswami Ayyangar v. State of T.N. 1976 (3) SCC 779]. " The existence of a common intention can be inferred from the attending circumstances of the case and the conduct of the parties. No direct evidence of common intention is necessary. For the purpose of common intention even the participation in the commission of the offence need not be proved in all cases. The common intention can develop even during the course of an occurrence.

Rajesh Govind Jagesha v. State of Maharashtra 1999 (8) SCC 428 To apply Section 34 IPC apart from the fact that there should be two or more accused, two factors must be established" (i) common intention, and (ii) participation of the accused in the commission of an offence. If a common intention is proved but no overt act is attributed to the individual accused, Section 34 will be attracted as essentially it involves vicarious liability but if participation of the accused in the crime is proved and a common intention is absent, Section 34 cannot be invoked. In every case, it is not possible to have direct evidence of a common intention. It has to be inferred from the facts and circumstances of each case." For appreciating the ambit and scope of Section 34, the preceding Sections 32 and 33 have always to be kept in mind. Under Section 32 acts include illegal omissions.Section 33 defines the "act" to mean as well a series of acts as a single act and the word "omission" denotes as well a series of omissions as a single omission. The distinction between a "common intention" and a "similar intention" which is real and substantial is also not to be lost sight of. The common intention implies a pre-arranged plan but in a given case it may develop at the spur of the moment in the course of the commission of the offence. Such common intention which developed at the spur of the moment is different from the similar intention actuated by a number of persons at the same time. The distinction between "common intention" and "similar intention" may be fine but is nonetheless a real one and if overlooked may lead to miscarriage of justice. Tukaram Ganpat Pandare vs State Of Maharashtra on 6 February, 1974 Mere distance from the scene of crime cannot exclude culpability under Section 34 which lays down the rule of joint responsibility for a criminal act performed by a plurality of persons. In Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. The King Emperor (1924) 52 IA 40 : AIR 1925 PC 1 the Judicial Committee drew into the criminal net those 'who only stand and wait'. This does not mean that some form of presence, near or remote, is not necessary, or that mere presence, without more, at the spot of crime, spells culpability. Criminal sharing, overt or covert by active presence or by distant direction, making out a certain measure of jointness in the commission of the act is the essence of Section 34. Even assuming that presence at the scene is a pre-requisite to attract Section 34 arid that such propinquity is absent. Section 107, which is different in one sense, still comes into play to rope in the accused. The act here is not the picking the godown lock but house-breaking and criminal house trespass. This crime is participated in by those operating by remote control as by those doing physical removal.Together operarting in concert, the criminal project is executed. Those who supply the duplicate key, wait at the weigh bridge for the break-in arid bringing of the booty and later secrete the keys are participles criminis.

Amrik Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab 1972 CrLJ 465 (SC). The words "common intention" implies a pre-arranged plan and acting in concert pursuant to the plan. It must be proved that the criminal act was done in concert pursuant to the pre-arranged plan. Common intention comes into force prior to the commission of the act in point of time, which need not be a long gap. Under this section a pre-concert in the sense of a distinct previous plan is not necessary to be proved. The common intention to bring about a particular result may well develop on the spot as between a number of persons, with reference to the facts of the case and circumstances of the situation. Though common intention may develop on the spot, it must, however, be anterior in point of time to the commission of the crime showing a pre- arranged plan and prior concert. The common intention may develop in course of the fight but there must be clear and unimpeachable evidence to justify that inference.

Virendra Singh vs State Of M.P on 9 August, 2010

Section 34 is not a substantive offence. It is imperative that before a man can be held liable for acts done by another, under the provisions of this section, it must be established that there was common intention in the sense of a pre-arranged plan between the two and the person sought to be so held liable had participated in some manner in the act constituting the offence. Unless common intention and participation are both present, this section cannot apply.

Supreme Court in Mohan Singh & anr. vs. State of Punjab [AIR 1963 174] observed, it is now well settled that the common intention required by Section 34 is different from the same intention or similar intention. The persons having similar intention which is not the result of pre-concerted plan cannot be held guilty for the "criminal act" with the aid of Section 34. Similarly the distinction of the words used in Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act "in reference to their common intention" and the words used in Section 34 "in furtherance of the common intention" is significant. Whereas Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with the actions done by conspirators in reference to the common object, Section 34 of the Code deals with persons having common intention to do a criminal act. In Shreekantiah Ramayya Munipalli & Anr. v. State of Bombay [AIR 1955 SC 287] Supreme Court held: "It is true there must be some sort of preliminary planning which may or may not be at the scene of the crime and which may have taken place long beforehand, but there must be added to it the element of physical presence at the scene of occurrence coupled with actual participation which, of course, can be of a passive character such as standing by a door, provided that is done with the intention of assisting in furtherance of the common intention of them all and there is a readiness to play his part in the pre-arranged plan when the time comes for him to act."


Supreme Court again in Takaram Ganapat Pandare v. State of Maharashtra [AIR 1974 SC 514] reiterated that Section 34 lays down the rule of joint responsibility for criminal act performed by a plurality of persons and even mere distance from the scene of crime cannot exclude the culpability of the offence. "Criminal sharing, overt or covert, by active presence or by distant direction making out a certain measure of jointness in the commission of the act is the essence of Section 34".


In a case where the deceased was murdered by one of the two accused with a sharp edged weapon at 10.30 p.m. while he was sleeping on a cot in his house while the other accused, his brother, without taking part stood by with a spear in his hand to overcome any outside interference with the attainment of the criminal act and both the accused ran away together after the murder, Supreme Court in Lalai alias Dindoo & Anr. v. State of U.P. [AIR 1974 SC 2118] held that these facts had a sufficient bearing on the existence of a common intention to murder. In Gopi Nath @ Jhallar v. State of U.P. (2001) 6 SCC 620 it was observed as under:


"8. ..... As for the challenge made to the conviction under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC, it is necessary to advert to the salient principles to be kept into consideration and often reiterated by this Court, in the matter of invoking the aid of Section 34 IPC, before dealing with the factual aspect of the claim made on behalf of the appellant. Section 34 IPC has been held to lay down the rule of joint responsibility for criminal acts performed by plurality or persons who jointed together in doing the criminal act, provided that such commission is in furtherance of the common intention of all of them. Even the doing of separate, similar or diverse acts by several persons, so long as they are done in furtherance of a common intention, render each of such persons liable for the result of them all, as if he had done them himself, for the whole of the criminal action - be it that it was not overt or was only covert act or merely an omission constituting an illegal omission. The Section, therefore, has been held to be attracted even where the acts committed by the different confederates are different when it is established in one way or the other that all of them participated and engaged themselves in furtherance of the common intention which might be of a pre-concerted or pre-arranged plan or one manifested or developed at the spur of the moment in the course of the commission of the offence. The common intention or the intention of the individual concerned in furtherance of the common intention could be proved either from direct evidence or by inference from the acts or attending circumstances of the case and conduct of the parties. The ultimate decision, at any rate, would invariably depend upon the inferences deducible from the circumstances of each case."

In Krishnan & Anr. v. State represented by Inspector of Police (2003) 7 SCC 56, it was observed that section 34 is dependent on the circumstances of each case. No hard and fast rule can be made out regarding applicability or non-applicability of section 34.

Suresh And Anr vs State Of U.P on 2 March, 2001 Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code recognises 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.

sections 34, 35 and 37 must be read together, and the use in section 35 of the phrase 'each of such persons who joins in the act' and in section 37 of the phrase, 'doing any one of those acts, either singly or jointly with any other person' indicates the true meaning of section 34. So section 38 speaks of 'several persons engaged or concerned in a criminal act'. The different mode of expression may be puzzling but the sections must, I think, be construed as enunciating a consistent principle of liability. Otherwise the result would be chaotic.

To put it differently, an act is done by several persons when all are principals in the doing of it, and it is immaterial whether they are principals in the first degree or principals in the second degree, no distinction between the two categories being recognised.

This view of section 34 gives it an intelligible content in conformity with general notions. The opposing view involves a distinction dependent on identity or similarity of act which, if admissible at all, is wholly foreign to the law, both civil and criminal, and leads nowhere." In Rambilas Singh & Ors. v. State of Bihar [AIR 1989 SC 1593] Supreme Court held:


"It is true that in order to convict persons vicariously under S.34 or S.149 IPC, it is not necessary to prove that each and everyone of them had indulged in over acts. Even so, there must be material to show that the overt act or acts of one or more of the accused was or were done in furtherance of the common intention of all the accused or in prosecution of the common object of the members of the unlawful assembly." Again a three Judge Bench of Supreme Court in State of U.P. v. Iftikhar Khan & Ors. [1973 (1) SCC 512] after relying upon the host of judgments of Privy Council and Supreme Court, held that for attracting Section 34 it is not necessary that any overt act must be done by a particular accused. The section will be attracted if it is established that the criminal act has been done by one of the accused persons in furtherance of the common intention. If this is shown, the liability for the crime may be imposed on any one of the person in the same manner as if the act was done by him alone. In that case on proof of the facts that all the four accused persons were residents of the same village and accused Nos.1 and 3 were brothers who were bitterly inimical to the deceased and accused Nos.2 and 4 were their close friends, accused Nos.3 and 4 had accompanied the other two accused who were armed with pistols; all the four came together in a body and ran away in a body after the crime coupled with no explanation being given for their presence at the scene, the Court held that the circumstances led to the necessary inference of a prior concert and pre-arrangement which proved that the "criminal act" was done by all the accused persons in furtherance of their common intention. In Girija Shankar v. State of U.P. (2004) 3 SCC 793, it was observed that section 34 has been enacted to elucidate the principle of joint liability of a criminal act.


"Section 34 has been enacted on the principle of joint liability in the doing of a criminal act. The section is only a rule of evidence and does not create a substantive offence. The distinctive feature of the section is the element of participation in action. The liability of one person for an offence committed by another in the course of criminal act perpetrated by several persons arises under Section 34 if such criminal act is done in furtherance of a common intention of the persons who join in committing the crime. Direct proof of common intention is seldom available and, therefore, such intention can only be inferred from the circumstances appearing from the proved facts of the case and the proved circumstances. In order to bring home the charge of common intention, the prosecution has to establish by evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, that there was plan or meeting of minds of all the accused persons to commit the offence for which they are charged with the aid of Section 34, be it pre-arranged or on the spur of the moment; but it must necessarily be before the commission of the crime. The true concept of the section is that if two or more persons intentionally do an act jointly, the position in law is just the same is if each of them has done it individually by himself. The existence of a common intention amongst the participants in a crime is the essential element for application of this section. It is not necessary that the acts of the several persons charged with commission of an offence jointly must be the same or identically similar. The acts may be different in character, but must have been actuated by one and the same common intention in order to attract the provision."


In Ramesh Singh @ Photti v. State of A.P. (2004) 11 SCC 305, it has been observed as under:


"12. ....... As a general principle in a case of criminal liability it is the primary responsibility of the person who actually commits the offence and only that person who has committed the crime can be held guilty. By introducing Section 34 in the Penal Code the legislature laid down the principle of joint liability in doing a criminal act. The essence of that liability is to be found in the existence of a common intention connecting the accused leading to the doing of a criminal act in furtherance of such intention. Thus, if the act is the result of a common intention then every person who did the criminal act with that common intention would be responsible for the offence committed irrespective of the share which he had in its perpetration. ........."

In Krishnan & Anr. v. State of Kerala [JT 1996 (7) SC 612]Supreme Court even assuming that one of the appellants had not caused the injury to the deceased, upheld his conviction under Section 302/34 of the Penal Code holding:


"Question is whether it is obligatory on the part of the prosecution to establish commission of overt act to press into service section 34 of the Penal Code. It is no doubt true that court likes to know about overt act to decide whether the concerned person had shared the common intention in question. Question is whether overt act has always to be established? I am of the view that establishment of a overt act is not a requirement of law to allow section 34 to operate inasmuch this section gets attracted when "a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of common intention of all". What has to be, therefore, established by the prosecution is that all the concerned persons had shared the common intention. Court's mind regarding the sharing of common intention gets satisfied when overt act is established qua each of the accused. But then, there may be a case where the proved facts would themselves speak of sharing of common intention: res ipsa loquitur." 2. Participation - It means to take part and part in an act may be taken by doing something which advances or helps the common cause or achievement . Besides pre planning , what is required is an element of physical presence at the scene of occurrence coupled with actual participation which can be of passive character . Section 34 employs the word "done" - it is essential that they actually join in doing the act and not merely planning its preparation . However , in Jaikrishnadas Manohardasdesai vs The State Of Bombay on 16 March, 1960 But the essence of liability under s.34 is to be found in the existence of a common intention animating the offenders leading to the doing of a criminal act in furtherance of the common intention and presence of the offender sought to be rendered liable under s. 34 is not, on the words of the statute, one of the conditions of its applicability. As explained by Lord Sumner in Barendra Kumar Ghose v. The King Emperor('supra) the leading feature of s. 34 of the Indian Penal Code is 'participation' in action. To establish joint responsibility for an offence, it must of course be established that a criminal act was done by several persons; the participation must be in doing the act, not merely in its planning. A common intention--a meeting of minds--to commit an offence and participation in the commission of the offence in furtherance of that common intention invite the application of s. 34. But this participation need not in all cases be by physical presence. In offences involving physical violence, normally presence at the scene of offence of the offenders sought to be rendered liable on the principle of joint liability may be necessary, but such is not the case in respect of other offences where the offence consists of diverse acts which may be done at different times and places. (Suresh V. State of UP (supra) reiterates the position) Lord Dacre case (1, Hale P.C 439) - Lord Dacre agreed with several persons to hunt in another's park for deer , and to kill who might resist . one of the parties having killed the keeper , all were held guilty of the murder , though Lord Dacre was a quater of a mile away and knew nothing of individual blow.

Parshuram Singh vs. State of Bihar : JT 2002(1) SC 407 Supreme Court gave to two of the accused persons the benefit of doubt having regard to the peculiar facts and circumstances of that case. Against one of the accused in that case the allegation was that he exhorted the others to kill the deceased, and though he himself was armed with lathi, he did not take any part in the assault. The Court found that the surrounding circumstances of the case did not ensure the confidence that he made such an exhortation. Apart from not using the weapon, which was handy with him, there appeared no reason for him to take up the leadership of the gang as he had no quarrel with the deceased. As regards the other accused to whom the benefit of doubt was extended, the Court found that it was highly improbable that he would have refrained from using the inherently lethal weapon like the pistol which was in his possession if he shared the common intention.

Nandu Rastogi @ Nandji Rastogi & ... vs State Of Bihar on 1 October, 2002

Main accused came to the shop of informant and warned him to caution his son not to interfere in his matters. He later threatened the informant with dire consequences in case of any inference . Later , he came along with 4 others at the informant's shop caught hold of informant's son and took him inside the residential apartment which was just behind the shop . When informant and others tried to intervene the rest of the accused prevented them from intervening. After that gun shot fire was heard from inside and informant found his son bleeding and unconscious who died later in the hospital . All of the accused were held guilty under section 302 read with section 34 of IPC , as they acted in furtherance of common intention and a pre arranged plan was demonstrated by their acts and conduct. in Suresh vs. State of U.P. (supra) wherein it has been observed that to attract Section 34 IPC two postulates are indispensable : (1) The criminal act (consisting of a series of acts) should have been done, not by one person, but more than one person. (2) Doing of every such individual act cumulatively resulting in the commission of criminal offence should have been in furtherance of the common intention of all such persons. . It has been observed by this Court that to attract the applicability of Section 34 of the Code the prosecution is under an obligation to establish that there existed a common intention which requires a pre-arranged plan, because before a man can be vicariously convicted for the criminal act of another, the act must have been done in furtherance of the common intention. The Court observed: "Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code recognizes the principle of vicarious liability in 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 presupposes prior concert, which requires a prearranged plan of the accused participating in an offence. Such preconcert or preplanning 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 the spur of the 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." Supreme Court of India

Hardeep Singh & Ors vs State Of Haryana on 11 June, 2008

Section 34 has been enacted on the principle of joint liability in the doing of a criminal act. The Section is only a rule of evidence and does not create a substantive offence. The distinctive feature of the Section is the element of participation in action. The liability of one person for an offence committed by another in the course of criminal act perpetrated by several persons arises under Section 34 if such criminal act is done in furtherance of a common intention of the persons who join in committing the crime. Direct proof of common intention is seldom available and, therefore, such intention can only be inferred from the circumstances appearing from the proved facts of the case and the proved circumstances. In order to bring home the charge of common intention, the prosecution has to establish by evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, that there was plan or meeting of mind of all the accused persons to commit the offence for which they are charged with the aid of Section 34, be it pre-arranged or on the spur of moment; but it must necessarily be before the commission of the crime. The true contents of the Section is that if two or more persons intentionally do an act jointly, the position in law is just the same as if each of them has done it individually by himself. As observed in Ashok Kumar v. State of Punjab (AIR 1977 SC 109), the existence of a common intention amongst the participants in a crime is the essential element for application of this Section. It is not necessary that the acts of the several persons charged with commission of an offence jointly must be the same or identically similar. The acts may be different in character, but must have been actuated by one and the same common intention in order to attract the provision. The Section does not say "the common intention of all", nor does it say "and intention common to all". Under the provisions of Section 34 the essence of the liability is to be found in the existence of a common intention animating the accused leading to the doing of a criminal act in furtherance of such intention. As a result of the application of principles enunciated in Section 34, when an accused is convicted under Section 302 read with Section 34, in law it means that the accused is liable for the act which caused death of the deceased in the same manner as if it was done by him alone. The provision is intended to meet a case in which it may be difficult to distinguish between acts of individual members of a party who act in furtherance of the common intention of all or to prove exactly what part was taken by each of them. As was observed in Ch. Pulla Reddy and Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 1993 SC 1899), Section 34 is applicable even if no injury has been caused by the particular accused himself. For applying Section 34 it is not necessary to show some overt act on the part of the accused. Effect of No charge under section 34 -

In Sanichar Sahni v. State of Bihar, AIR 2010 SC 3786, this Court dealt with the aforementioned issue elaborately, and upon consideration of a large number of earlier judgments, held as under:


“Therefore,……………… unless the convict is able to establish that defect in framing the charges has caused real prejudice to him and that he was not informed as to what was the real case against him and that he could not defend himself properly, no interference is required on mere technicalities. Conviction order in fact is to be tested on the touchstone of prejudice theory.” Constitution bench of this court in Willie Slaney v. State of M.P., AIR 1956 SC 116. Where this court observed at para 86, thus:


"Sections 34, 114 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code provide for criminal liability viewed from different angles as regards actual participants, accessories and men actuated by a common object or a common intention: and the charge is a rolled-up one involving the direct liability and the constructive liability without specifying who are directly liable and who are sought to be made constructively liable. In such a situation, the absence of a charge under one or other of the various heads of criminal liability for the offence cannot be said to be fatal by itself, and before a conviction for the substantive offence, without a charge, can be set aside, prejudice will have to be made put. In most of the cases of this kind, evidence is normally given from the outset as to who was primarily responsible for the act which brought about the offence and such evidence is of course relevant." It is, therefore, open to the court to take recourse to Section 34 of IPC even if the said section was not specifically mentioned in the charge and instead Section 149 IPC has been included. Of course a finding that the assailant concerned had a common intention with the other accused is necessary for resorting to such a course. This view was following by this court in later decisions also, (Amar Singh v. State of Haryana. AIR 1973 SC 2221. Bhoor Singh and Anr. v. State or Punjab, AIR 1974 SC 1256) Krishna Govind Patil vs State Of Maharashtra on 23 January, 1963

It is well settled that common intention within the meaning of the section implied a pre-arranged plan and the criminal act was done pursuant to the prearranged plan. The said plan may also develop on the spot during the course of the commission of the offence; but the crucial circumstance is that the said plan must precede the act constituting the offence. If that be so, before a court can convict a person under s. 302, read with s. 34, of the Indian Penal Code, it should come to a definite conclusion that .the said person, had a prior concert with one or more other persons, named or unnamed, for committing the said offence. A few illustrations will bring out the impact of s. 34 on different situations.


(1) A, B, C and D are charged under s. 302, read with s.34, of the Indian Penal Code, for committing the murder of E. The evidence is directed to establish that the said four persons have taken part in the murder.


(2) A, B, C and D and unnamed others are charged under the said sections. But evidence is adduced to prove that the said persons, along with others, named or unnamed, participated jointly in the commission of that offence.


(3) A, B, C and D are charged under the said sections. But the evidence is directed to prove ,that A, B, C and D, along with 3 others, have jointly committed the offence.

As regards the third illustration, a Court is certainly entitled to come to the conclusion that one of the, named accused is guilty of murder under s. 302, read with s. 34, of the Indian Penal Code, though the other three named accused are acquitted, if it accepts the evidence that the said accused acted in concert along with persons, named or unnamed, other than those acquitted, in the commission of the offence.

In the second illustration, the Court can come to the same conclusion and convict one of the named accused if it is satisfied that no prejudice has been caused to the accused by the defect in the charge.

But in the first illustration the Court certainly can convict two or more of the named accused if it accepts the evidence that they acted conjointly in committing the offence.

But what is the position if the Court acquits 3 of the 4 accused either because it rejects the prosecution evidence or because it gives the benefit of doubt to the said accused ? Can it hold, in the absence of a charge as well as evidence', that though the three accused are acquitted, some other unidentified persons acted conjointly along with one of the named persons ? If the Court could do so, it would be making out a new case for. the prosecution : it would be deciding contrary to the evidence adduced in the case. A Court cannot obviously make out a case for the prosecution which is not disclosed either in the charge or in regard to which there is no basis in the evidence. There must be some foundation in the evidence that persons other than those named have taken part in the commission of the offence and if there is such a basis the case will be covered by the third illustration.


In support of the contention that a Court, even in the first illustration, can acquit 3 of the 4 accused named in the charge on the ground that their identity has not been established, and convict one of them on the ground that more than one took part in the commission of the offence, reliance is placed upon the decision of this Court in Mohan Singh v. State of Punjab (1962 SCR Supl. (3) 848) When common intention is established on facts accused can be convicted under 302 read with section 34 even if there was absence of charge of section 34.

State Of Andhra Pradesh vs K. Srinivasulu Reddy And Anr on 18 December, 2003

The legality of conviction by applying Section 34 IPC in the absence of such charge was examined in several cases. In Willie (William) Slaney v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1956 SC 116) it was held as follows:


"Sections 34, 114 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code provide for criminal liability viewed from different angles as regards actual participants, accessories and men actuated by a common object or a common intention; and the charge is a rolled up one involving the direct liability and the constructive liability without specifying who are directly