Criminal Conspiracy

By | June 16, 2019
Criminal conspiracy


Under English law conspiracy is said to be committed if two or more person agrees together to do something contrary to law, or wrongful and harmful towards another person, or to use unlawful means in the carrying out of an object not otherwise unlawful, the persons who agree commit the crime of conspiracy. A criminal conspiracy is the agreement of two or more persons to do an illegal act or to do a legal act by illegal means.

Definition of Criminal conspiracy under Section 120-A IPC

When two or more persons agree to do or cause to be done, –

  • An illegal Act
  • An act which is not illegal but when it is done by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy.

Provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some acts besides the agreement are done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof.

Explanation – It is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement, or is merely incidental to that object.

Ingredients of Criminal conspiracy

  1. There shall be a minimum of two or more person.
  2. Agree for an illegal act. The expression ‘ illegal’ has been defined in Section 43 of the code. According to this section, the word illegal is applicable to everything- (a). Which is an offence. (b) Which is prohibited by law. (c) Which is furnishes ground for a civil action (d) Act is done by illegal means.
  3. Incidental to the object of the agreement. The law does not treat these cases differently.

Case Law: Mohammad Usman Mohammad Hussain Maniyar & Anr. Vs. State Of Maharashtra, 1981 AIR 1062

In this case, the accused persons were selling explosive substances without a valid license for a very long time.  The honourable Supreme Court that they were guilty of criminal conspiracy, as they had been doing this for a very long time, which could not have been possible without an agreement between them, and this agreement was proved by necessary implication.

Illustration:  ‘A’ the wife of  ‘B’ had an illicit connection with ‘C’,  who wanted to murder ‘B’.  Instead of telling B that C wanted to murder him, told C that B would go to a lonely place on a particular day & time.  C murdered B at that particular place, date and time. Thus A  and C  both are guilty of the offence of criminal conspiracy. C is also guilty of adultery and murder.

Conviction of a Single Person for Criminal Conspiracy

An important question arises whether a single individual can be held guilty of this offence. For criminal conspiracy, there ‘must’ be at-least two persons. Thus the section only says that agreement must be between two or more persons and not that the connection must be of at least two persons.

Illustration: Where the prosecution case is that four persons had entered into an agreement to commit the murder of ‘Z’ and out of this four one is ‘D’ without a shadow of a doubt.  The other three might be A, B and C or might not be A, B and C because the evidence against them is not beyond doubt. In such case, since two things are certain the member of conspirators was four and one of these four was definitely “D’ thus D alone is guilty of criminal conspiracy.

Case Law: B.H. Narasimha Rao Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1996 SC 64

The appellant was the Head of the Telegraph Transfer Section of the Secunderabad Branch of the UCO Bank, and that with his active co-operation the fraud had materialised thereby causing loss of money to the Bank entrusted to the management of the branch. The accused was charged for committing an offence in conspiracy with seven others who were acquitted. It was held that the accused could not be convicted under section 120-B on the mere ground that he was head of a section of the branch where the fraud was alleged to have been committed.

Punishment of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B IPC

Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards shall, where were no express provision is made in this code for punishment of such conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted of such offence.

Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or with fine or with both.

By – Mayank Shekhar
(Faculty of Law, DU)


  1. Gaur K.D., Textbook on Indian Penal Code, Fifth Edition, Universal Law Publishing Co.
  2. SCC Online

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