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.