Author-Priyanshi Jaiswal, University of Lucknow, Lucknow


The word ‘Conspiracy’ is generally signified for an illegal or bad act. In common parlance, ‘Conspiracy’ i.e (षडयंत्र) means a kind of secret plan between two or more persons in pursuance of any act. A conspiracy between any person is not merely held in their mind but it must also be made explicitly in their agreement to do an unlawful or overt act, so from this, we can determine that mere intention is not indictable under a conspiracy. One of the most essential elements present in Conspiracy is an agreement between parties to commit any act that is unlawful in nature. In toto, the whole crux of this offence is the ‘Combination’ means the agreement between the persons to commit an act.

In the Indian Penal Code, 1860[1] Criminal Conspiracy is defined as a substantive offence, earlier when an accused is charged with criminal conspiracy, there must also be the presence of any other charges of substantive offences.

In 1913, Chapter – V A  was inserted in the Indian Penal Code which deals with the ‘Criminal Conspiracy’, the provisions and punishments for the same are given under Section 120A and 120B respectively.

Throughout this article, we shall be dealing with each and every aspect of the Criminal Conspiracy discussed under criminal law.

Keywords (Minimum 5):

  1. Criminal Conspiracy.
  2. Agreement for unlawful purposes.
  3. Section 120A of Indian Penal Code.
  4. Legal act by illegal means.
  5. Joint Liability.


In our society both crime and criminality are looked upon with the greatest hatred by everyone, but it can’t be denied that it is one of the most interesting branches of Jurisprudence. According to Stephen, “Crime is an act forbidden by law and which at the same time revolting to the moral sentiments of the society.” [2] Criminal Conspiracy is defined under Indian Penal Code as inchoate crime because it approaches toward the suspects for the prevention of the suspected crime at any particular time or place. Conspiracy holds nothing but the mere combination of minds or agreement between the parties to constitute an offence is enough to punish the offenders for such an act. Here, the agreement means the meeting of two minds with an intent for a particular instance, there shall not be presence of criminal conspiracy until there is any interchanging of plans or matters regarding the commission of such act. The origin of conspiracy took place in early years of ancient time for executing false cases  against one. However  it was mainly recognised in the case of Poulterer’s case (1611)  in which for the first time criminal conspiracy was regarded as a criminal offence of substantive nature.


In the year 1913, the Criminal Law Amendment Act inserted Chapter V-A of the Indian Penal Code which made conspiracy a substantive offence. Earlier to this, there was no such statutory provisions related to the conspiracy between any persons for the commission of any offence, they were only punishable when such act amounted to an offence in pursuance thereof. Under the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Conspiracy is defined under Section 120A as follows –

“Section 120A : Definition of Criminal Conspiracy

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.”[3]

The Proviso attached to this section explains that all such agreements for the commission of an offence shall amount to criminal conspiracy. When the object of such conspiracy is to commit an act that is not amount to offence, in such case some overt act is necessary. It is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement, or is merely incidental to that object.


The followings are the prerequisites of the offence of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 :-

  1. Presence of agreement between two or more than two persons who conspired together.
  2. That agreement must be made with an intention –
  • to commit an illegal act, or
  • to commit a legal act but by illegal means.

3. Presence of joint evil intent of parties.

In the case of K. Hasim v/s State of Tamil Nadu[4], it was laid that the most important element of criminal conspiracy is the unlawful combination and the offence shall be completed when the act is reached at the stage of combination.

For example – A and B planned together to persuade C to kill D. They accordingly persuaded C and he agreed to do so. In such a case A and B shall be liable for abetment to commit murder whereas C will be liable for the offence of conspiracy under Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code.


In the Criminal Justice System, the concept of ‘Evidence’ holds the greatest importance for investigating any facts of the case. Generally, it is of two types: (i) direct evidence and (ii) circumstantial evidence. In the case of criminal conspiracy, the act or any offence is usually executed secretly so the proof for the evidence in such a case can not be made easily from the  direct evidence as compared to the circumstantial evidence.

Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872[5] states the doctrine of agency which says that if the case is proved to be of criminal conspiracy, the act of one of the conspirator becomes the act of the another involved in such conspiracy and anything done or written by any of one of such persons in further of common intention would be seems to be conspired together and then each one shall be liable.

Followings are the certain conditions for this section:-

  • Presence of reasonable ground.
  • Everything that is done, written or said by any one of them expressly showing their common intention shall be covered under the ambit of evidence.

In the case of Ram Narain Popli v/s CBI[6], the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the evidences of mere agreement between the parties are sufficient to prove the case of conspiracy.


According to Bentham, “Punishment is an empirical question of desire and of the infliction of sufficient pain to provide an effective deterrent[7].”

The quantum of punishment for the offence of  criminal conspiracy under this section is split into two parts, namely,

  1. If the offences are of severe nature, here the punishment for the conspiracy shall be the same as given under the punishment for the commission of such offences, and
  2. and the secondly for the less severe offences where express provisions are made for their punishments.

The Indian Penal Code provides punishment of criminal conspiracy under Section 120B as follows –

“Section – 120B – Punishment for criminal conspiracy.

  • Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term Anything said, written or done by any one of them about their common intention will be evidence against each other.
  • 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 manyas 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.”[8]

In the recent case, Praveen v/s State of Haryana[9], it was observed by the court that it is not the compliance of the provisions of Section 120B of IPC without the presence of sufficient evidence shows the prior meeting of mind or agreement between them.


There are following two types of defence available in the case of criminal conspiracy –

  1. Abandonment or withdrawal – Generally seen in the cases of attempt, if it is proved that before the commission of the offences, the accused withdrew the case or abandoned himself then he shall not be guilty of such offences. In the same way we can provide defence if we prove that the conspirator withdrew from such a conspiracy at the very initial stage.
  2. Entrapment – As the name suggests ‘something that is entrapped’. In this the conspirator is entrapped by a law enforcement officer or government agent to be involved in such a conspiracy.


  1. Criminal Conspiracy is a substantive offence whereas the Abetment is not a substantive offence.
  2. Criminal Conspiracy is dealt under Section 120A of IPC whereas the provisions for the Abetment is covered under Section -107 of IPC.
  3. The mode of commission of offence varies, in the criminal conspiracy agreements are made between the parties for such an offence however in the latter one one person instigates or provokes another for the commission of any offence.
  4. Mere combination is the gist of the criminal conspiracy but in abetment the act must be committed.
  5. The term ‘Conspirator’ is used for the offender in criminal conspiracy and in abetment, ‘Abettor’ is used.
  6. Abetment is the ‘genus’ whereas criminal conspiracy is ‘species’.
  7. In any case the abettor can not be the principal offender (accused) but the conspirator can be the accused for the case.
  8. The offences under the criminal conspiracy can be said as a part of offences under Abetment.


Due to its gravity of nature, criminal conspiracy is exempted from the essentials of the crime, a crime includes two things i.e actus reus and mens reus  however in  the criminal conspiracy the actus reus is the exception. The aim before inclusion of this act was to prevent the criminal activities before its actual commission but this approach is not accomplished nowadays. It has also been observed the misuses of the provisions of conspiracy in a number of cases where innocents are tortured and humiliated. It seems that there is a need to pay attention to the provisions of conspiracy during investigation or trial, due diligence must also be shown from the side of judges in courtrooms.

  2. Books –
    1. Indian Penal Code by Prof. S. N. Mishra
  3. Online Articles / Sources Referred
  4. Cases Referred
    1. B.I. v/s V.C. Shukla[10]
    2. State of Tamil Nadu v/s Nalini[11]
    3. Topandas v/s State of Bombay [12]
    4. Kuldeep Sharma v/s State of Himachal Pradesh[13]
  5. Statutes Referred
    1. Section 120A and 120B of Indian Penal Code.
    2. Section 107 of Indian Penal Code.
    3. Section 43 of Indian Penal Code.

[1] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act no. 45 of 1860).

[2] Stephen, General View of Criminal Law of England, p. 3.

[3] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act no. 45 of 1860).

[4] K. Hasim v/s State of Tamil Nadu (2005) Cr LJ 143 SC.

[5] The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (Act no. 1 of 1872).

[6] Ram Narain Popli v/s CBI (2003) 3 SCC 641.

[7] Bentham, Rationale of Punishment 29 (1830).

[8] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act no. 45 of 1860).

[9] Praveen v/s State of Haryana (2021) Cr Appeal no. 1571 of 2021.

[10] C.B.I v/s V.C. Shukla AIR 1998 S.C 1406.

[11] State of Tamil Nadu v/s Nalini (1999) Cr LJ 3124 (SC)

[12] Topandas v/s State of Bombay (1955) 2 SCR 881.

[13] Kuldeep Sharma v/s State of Himachal Pradesh AIR 2011 SC 1895.


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