SC on who can be considered guilty of criminal conspiracy.

Today i.e. on 10.10.2018, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of Bilal Hajar @ Abdul Hameed v. State Rep. by the Inspector of Police pronounced that presence and participation alone in such a meeting, where a criminal conspiracy is hatched, is sufficient to constitute the offence of criminal conspiracy. It is not necessary that all conspirators must know each and every detail of the conspiracy, which is being hatched and nor is it necessary to prove their active part/role in such a meeting.

The Hon’ble Court referred to the explanation of the term “criminal conspiracy”, given by Learned Judge Subba Rao (as His Lordship then was and later became CJI) in the matter of Major E.G. Barsay vs. State of Bombay ((1962) 2 SCR 195) which read as follows:

31…The gist of the offence is an agreement to break the law. The parties to such an agreement will be guilty of criminal conspiracy, though the illegal act agreed to be done has not been done. So too, it is not an ingredient of the offence that all the parties should agree to do a single illegal act. It may comprise the commission of a number of acts. 

The Hon’ble Apex Court observed:

An offence of “criminal conspiracy” is a separate and distinct offence. (Para 30)

In order to constitute a criminal conspiracy and to attract its rigor, two factors must be present in the case on facts: first, involvement of more than one person and second, an agreement between/among such persons to do or causing to be done an illegal act or an act which is not illegal but is done or causing to be done by illegal means. (Para 30)

In order to constitute a conspiracy, meeting of mind of two or more persons to do an illegal act or an act by illegal means is a must. In other words, it is sine qua non for invoking the plea of conspiracy against the accused. (Para 32)

However, it is not necessary that all the conspirators must know each and every detail of the conspiracy, which is being hatched and nor it is necessary to prove their active part/role in such meeting.  (Para 32)

Presence and participation in such meeting alone is sufficient.  (Para 33)

A criminal conspiracy is alwayshatched in secrecy and is never an open affair to anyone much less to public at large. (Para 33)It is for this reason, its existence coupled with the object for which it was hatched has to be gathered on the basis of circumstantial evidence, such as conduct of the conspirators, the chain of circumstances leading to holding of such meeting till the commission of offence by applying the principle applicable for appreciating the circumstantial evidence for holding the accused guilty for commission of an offence.  (Para 34)

Copy of Judgement: Judgement 10-Oct-2018

-Tushar Kaushik

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