Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120-A & 120-B) under Indian Penal Code, 1860

Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120-A & 120-B) under Indian Penal Code, 1860


This chapter has introduced a new offence of “Criminal Conspiracy” in the Indian Penal Code, by making the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,1913.

Criminal conspiracy means an agreement to commit an offence.

  • Definition:

Section 120-A defines Criminal Conspiracy as under:

“When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done an illegal act, or 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.”

  • Meaning of the words or terms used in the above Definition:
  1. “Two or more persons”-To constitute the offence of ‘Criminal conspiracy’, there must be an agreement between two or more persons. Because “one cannot conspire (hatch a plan) with oneself”.

 In the case of Topandas V. State of Bombay, 1955, AIR 1956 S.C. 33: The court held that, topandas a single person could not be convicted as at least two persons are required for the offence of Criminal conspiracy.

  1. “An act which is not illegal by illegal means”-

The Act may be legal, but if it is agreed to be done by illegal means, it will amount to a criminal conspiracy.

In One case, the court observed that, the accused can be held liable for the offence of criminal conspiracy to do the legal act (purchasing firearms) by illegal means (Not purchasing arms as per law or legal requirements). 31 C.W.N. 239=38, Cr.L.J. 241.

  1. Some act beside the agreement is done”-

It is necessary that some overt act must be done by any one of them in pursuance to their conspiracy. If their agreement is to commit an offence, then no over act need be done by them. Mere proof of an agreement is enough to bring about conviction for criminal conspiracy.

Therefore, the gist of the offence is bare engagement and association to break the law, irrespective of the whether any act be done in pursuance thereof by the conspirators or not- Mohammed Ismail’s Case, (1936), Nagpur 152.

  • Difference between abetment by conspiracy and criminal conspiracy:
  1. Abetment by conspiracy is defined by Section 107 Clause 2; Criminal conspiracy is defined u/s. 120-A.
  2. For constituting the offence of criminal conspiracy u/s. 120-A, mere agreement is enough if the agreement is to commit an offence. But for abetment by conspiracy u/s. 107 Clause 2, an act or illegal omission must take place in pursuance of the conspiracy and mere agreement will not be not enough- Kehar singh V. State(Delhi Administration), 1988, AIR 1988, S.C. 1883.
  3. Criminal conspiracy is a substantive offence by itself, a distinct offence, and a person can be separately charged in respect of such an offence and is punishable as such; but abetment by conspiracy is not per se (by itself) a substantive offence and it must be connected with another offence.
  • Section 120-B: Punishment for ‘Criminal Conspiracy’-
  1. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with- a) death, or b) imprisonment for life, or c) rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards:- shall be punished in the same manner as if he has abetted such offence.
  2. Whoever is a party to criminal conspiracy to commit offences other than the offences as aforesaid in Clause a), b) & c) :-

Shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or with fine or with both.

  • More about Criminal Conspiracy:

Criminal Conspiracy can be defined as an act when two or more persons agree to do or cause to do:

  1. Any illegal act.
  2. Any act which is done through illegal means.

It is important to note that the objective to commit such a crime is very important in this act. In the case of Mulcahy v. Regina, it was said that the criminal intent of doing an act is very indispensable from constituting an act of conspiracy. In Rex v. Jones, it was first held that “Criminal Conspiracy ought to charge a conspiracy, either to do an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means”. The idea of intent extends in various cases in national and international law. Many have argued on the constitution of the ‘unlawful’ act. The real meaning to that is still getting scrutinised by the courts, however, we can still count that as anything which is against the law. 

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