A criminal conspiracy is when two or more people come into an agreement to commit a crime in the future. It can either be a unlawful crime or, a lawful action which has been achieved by unlawful means. The mere agreement between two people does not amount to criminal conspiracy, some other action has to take place which pursues the objectives in the agreement. Criminal conspiracy is an punishable offence as stated under section 120 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. This crime has been defined under section 120A as : “When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done
a.an illegal act, or b. an act which is not illegal 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 act besides the agreement is 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.”
Section 120B of the IPC has provided for the punishment of criminal conspiracy, it states that any person who has committed the crime of criminal conspiracy will either be punished with the death sentence, or an imprisonment for a minimum of two years or above will take place. The same punishment will apply in the case of abetment to the offence. Any person who has committed any other offence will be punished with either with an imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or a fine, in some cases even both.
The offence of conspiracy was considered a civil offence before, but after considering the abetment concept to the conspiracy, and the commission of various crimes like murder, robbery, etc which involve criminal conspiracy, it was considered that this should be regarded as a crime. The position of criminal conspiracy has been changed when the section 120A and 120B has been added through the V A chapter to the IPC. Now we will be discussing the essentials for an act to be considered as criminal conspiracy, they have been discussed as follows:
- Two or more people: For an act to be considered as criminal conspiracy only when two or more than two minds are conspiring for or against something. Only one conspiring wont be a criminal conspiracy.
- Commission of an illegal act: Mere agreement between the wto or more parties to do something is not considered as conspiracy, and act has to be done which is prohibited by the IPC, and it completely forbidden by law, then the parties will be accountable fro criminal conspiracy.
- Commission of a crime by illegal means: When a completely legal act is committed through various illegal means by two or more people as they have caused ommission , then is is regarded that the person has committed the crime of criminal conspiracy.
- Meeting of minds: The person involved in the criminal conspiracy are regarded to commit that when each and everyone know the intention behind the actions that are going to take place, if they don’t know them they they will not be liable for criminal conspiracy. This plays an important role in proving that there has been a conspiracy.
A question may arise that what if only one of the two people is present in the crime, and second one has not played part in the crime, in that case only the person committing it will be convicted. But if the second person has committed small mistakes which helped the first person th commit the crime, then he will also be jointly liable.
Now lets take the help of an example to understand, lets assume that A, B, C and D commit a bank robbery, A is responsible for cutting the wires to go into the bank, and C and D go into the bank and steal all the money, and when all this is happening B is standing outside the bank, and he is not aware of the situation that bank robbery is going to happen, his duty was a driver who would just drop them to a particular place. So in the above situation C and D are clearly a part of the criminal conspiracy, whereas A has committed abetment, i.e supported the crime by leading a way into the bank, hence B will also be a part of the criminal conspiracy as an abettor. B had no idea of what was happening , therefore he would not be liable for criminal conspiracy. Hence, we can see that there was meeting of minds between A, C and D. We have to remember that crime is a combination of actus rea that is the physical action, and mens rea which is the mental wrong intention to commit the crime, thus one would be liable only if both take place.
To sum it up, the law of criminal conspiracy has been clearly explained through the above examples and provisions. Hence, it becomes important to take into consideration every small thing while one is proving for criminal conspiracy. Only if all the essentials are fulfilled we can come to a conclusion that a crime has taken place, It is very difficult to prove the meeting minds point, but we have to understand that the mental intention of a person plays a very important rile in deciding if one is a criminal or not. Hence, investigation should be conducted in a very clear and transparent manner, without leaving the smallest of smallest detail.