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  <%-- Page Title--%> Issue No 147 <%-- End Page Title--%>  

July 4, 2004 

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Criminal conspiracy
The word conspiracy is widely used in our society. But do we know its legal meaning? To constitute the offence of criminal conspiracy there must be an agreement of two or more persons to do an act which is illegal or which is to be done by illegal means. It is to be noted that one can not conspire with oneself. Section 120A of the Penal Code deals with the criminal conspiracy. Formerly this offence was much more circumscribed in its meaning than it is now. Lord Coke of United States describes it as "a consultation or agreement between two or more to appeal or indict an innocent person falsely and maliciously, whom accordingly they cause to be indicted or appealed and afterwards the party is acquitted by the verdict of twelve men."

The agreement between two or more is the gist of the offence. In order to constitute a single general conspiracy there must be a common design and a common intention of all to work in furtherance of that common design. Each conspirator plays his separate part in one integrated and united effort to achieve common purpose. Each one is aware that he has a part to play in a general conspiracy, though he may not know all its secrets or the means by which the common purpose is to be accomplished.

A general conspiracy must be distinguished from a number of separate conspiracies having a similar general purpose. Where a different group of persons cooperate towards their separate ends without any interaction with each other, each combination constitutes a separate conspiracy. (AIR, 1970 SC 45).

The basic essence of conspiracy is that there should be an agreement between persons to do something illegal. The said agreement may be proved by direct evidence or may be inferred from acts and conduct of the parties. The proof of the offence of conspiracy can be established by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence.

The ingredients for criminal conspiracy are:
There must be an agreement between the persons who are alleged to conspire.
The agreement should be -
for doing an illegal act
for doing the act by illegal means
The crime of criminal conspiracy, according to its modern interpretation, may be of two kinds, firstly, conspiracies against the public, and secondly, conspiracies against individuals.

Section 120 B of the Penal Code deals with the punishment for criminal conspiracy. Any body, who is a party to criminal conspiracy, shall be punished with death or imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for a term of minimum two years or upward. Section 120 B is worded in present tense and therefore can not be exclusively read to mean whoever has been or had been party to criminal conspiracy shall be punished as if the offence was committed. In other words it is intended to be treated as a continuing offence and whoever is a party to conspiracy during the period for which s/he is charged is liable under section 120 B of Penal Code.

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