Today, we covered a number of similar topics in Criminal Law – the ways in which a crime can be extended to other people, kinda like Ocean’s 11.
Criminal conspiracy is covered under S.120A of our PC. The essential elements here are that there must be more than one person involved – it’s not quite possible to have a conspiracy with only one person; and there has to be an act or first step taken in the conspiracy.
Therefore, conspiracy is not a result crime but a conduct crime. Nothing bad actually needs to happen but all that is required is that there are several people plotting together and that any one of them takes a first step towards advancing the plot.
The whole idea of this provision is to prevent the commission of a crime committed by a number of people.
Abetment is covered under S.107 of our PC. Unlike conspiracy, abetment is used on an individual that is linked to the crime. However, there are only four forms of abetment as specified under the section: one can instigate, command, engage or aid in the commission of the crime.
What is dangerous about this section is that the crime itself does not need to have been carried out. The abetment of another abetment is also a crime, which can invariable pull in anyone higher up along the chain. This section can be read quite widely as the cases show.
This section, can be confused with conspiracy particularly S.107(b) that makes one guilty of abetment in a conspiracy. The key point here is to remember that the abettor does not himself need to be part of the conspiracy e.g. the mastermind.
The whole idea of this provision is to capture anyone else who might have played a role, possibly indirectly unlike in a conspiracy where it’s only the members of the conspiracy who are caught.
Common intention is covered under S.34 of our PC. Unlike the previous two, this section is not a substantive section and can only be used alongside any other substantive section. The elements are that the criminal act is done by several persons to further a common intention.
The key here is that each person must have contributed to the criminal act, with a common intention. Again, the cases show a wide interpretation of this section. The persons involved do not even need to be physically present. Anyone who contributed to the crime is considered to have committed the said crime.
This can often be confused with S.107(c) of abetment – aid – as each person involved must have contributed to the crime. The key difference between the two is the common intention. Any person who aided a crime may have done so unwittingly or unknowingly, and will not be caught by this section.
The whole idea of this provision is to capture everyone involved in a group crime, e.g. gang crime, particularly when it may be difficult to determine whom actually pulled the trigger, whom was the lookout, whom was the getaway driver, etc.
Unlawful assembly is under S.149 of our PC. This provision is the widest ranging one of them all. While it is necessary to show that every member of the gang contributed in some way under S.34, it is totally unnecessary to do so under S.149.
All that is required is that there must be an unlawful assembly as defined under S.141 of our PC and those present have assembled for a common object (not intention). Then, someone in the group committed a crime then all those present are deemed to be guilty of the same offence.
This is often confused with S.34 but one is of a common intent while the other is a common object. The S.149 common object element is much wider as everyone may have different intentions while having the same object. However, another catch is that there must be at least five people physically present first.
While this provision seems terribly wide and dangerous, the whole idea is to rope everyone present at the scene into the crime. It does not mean that everyone is guilty of the crime though, unlike S.34.