Conspiracy under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

By | October 21, 2019
Conspiracy under the Indian Evidence Act

Last Updated :

Conspiracy under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 | Overview

A conspiracy is entirely a secret affair. When two or more persons enter into an agreement to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act in an unlawful manner, there is said to be a conspiracy between them.  It is due to this reason that the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, makes provisions for the admissibility of certain kinds of evidence against an alleged conspirator. Let us have a look at the relevant provision, the legal principle behind the provision and its scope and application.

Provision

Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides for the relevancy of statements made or acts done by conspirators in reference to a common design. The section provides that if there is sufficient ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired to commit an offence or an actionable wrong then anything that is done, written or said by anyone of them in pursuance of the common intention, the same is a relevant fact-

  1. Against the alleged conspirators
  2. In order to prove the existence of a conspiracy

An illustration to the provision reads as follows,

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

Principle

The legal principle behind the provision is that by hatching a conspiracy to do something, the conspirators have assumed a certain individuality whereby any statement made or act done, regarding the conspiracy, generally or towards any of the other conspirators forms a part of res gestae and, hence, becomes admissible. A conspiracy is entirely a secret affair. Therefore, the prosecution cannot be expected to establish the link between statements or acts of each of the accused with allowing the tendering of a common bond establishing the link.[1]

Scope & Application

The operation of the section is contingent upon the existence of sufficient grounds to believe that the accused have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong. The expression “reasonable grounds to believe” refers to the existence of prima facie evidence regarding the existence of any conspiracy between the accused.

In the case of Kehar Singh v. State (Delhi Admn.),[2]the fact that the accused were present at the gathering a short time before the shooting took place and talked to each other in isolation and avoided questions pertaining to their conversation was admitted as a prima facie evidence establishing the existence of a conspiracy.[3] Where entries in a diary were neither self-explanatory nor showed existence of any conspiracy even to the prima facie extent, the Court refused to invoke provisions of section 10 of the Evidence Act.[4]

The section pertains to anything that is written, said or done by any of the conspirators in “reference” to the common intention. Thus, it is not necessary for the statement or the act to be in pursuance of or in precedence of the common intention.[5]

The mere fact that the statement or act is related to the common intention is enough to attract the provisions of section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It must be noted that the said statement or act has to be after the conspiracy has been hatched. That is to say after the conspirators first entertained the idea of conspiring to commit the offence or actionable wrong. Further, any statement made or act done after the common intention had ceased to exist does not fall within the ambit of the provision.[6]

The fact is relevant in so far as:

  1. It is used against the alleged conspirators
  2. It is used to prove the existence of a conspiracy
  3. It is used to prove the association of a person with the conspiracy

A confession made by a conspirator in the presence of a Magistrate is admissible only under section 30 of the Evidence Act and not under section 10.[7]


References

[1] Badri Rai, AIR 1958 SC 953.

[2] AIR 1988 SC 1883.

[3] Contra Sardar Sardul Singh v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC 681.

[4] Advani L.K. v. CBI, 1997 Cr LJ 2559 (Del).

[5] Emperor v. Bhola Nath, (1939) All 736.

[6] Mirza Akbar v. Emperor, AIR 1940 PC 760.

[7] Emperor v. Abani Bhushan Chuckerbutty, (1910) 38 Cal 169 (SB).


  1. Common Intention And Common Object Under The IPC (Discussion and Comparison)
  2. Motive, Preparation and Conduct