The term conspire is to make a decision secretly for committing something very illegal or harmful. When two or more person expressly or impliedly agrees to indulge in an illegal act, constitute the offence of criminal conspiracy. The basic essence of this section is the involvement of more than one person because a single person cannot conspire.


Conspiracy is mentioned under Chapter VA of the code. Section 120 A deals with criminal conspiracy while section 120B deals with the punishment for criminal conspiracy. In this article, we will deal with criminal conspiracy with the help of leading case laws.


A criminal conspiracy is an illegal act where two or more person agrees to do or cause:-

  1. Any unlawful act
  2. Any act through harmful means.

Here, we must consider that offence must be constituted by more than one person. In the following case of Mulcahy v. Regina,[1]  the court held that mens rea is the sine qua non to criminal conspiracy. Rex v. Jones[2] was the first case where the court observed that criminal conspiracy is simply doing an unlawful act or any act that is done by unlawful means. The idea and concept of conspiracy extend to the national and international levels. Also, the word unlawful stands debated now and then.


Initially, the conspiracy was a civil offence. It was two-folded:-

  1. Abetment in any offence; or
  2. Conspiracy with criminal intent.

However, in the year 1868, the English Common Law concept was widened with the judicial decision which was given by the House of Lords in the Mulchay v. R[3] case, the court stated out that mere agreement between two does not form criminal conspiracy rather intention was the base of the act. The scenario changed with the addition of section 121A of the Indian Penal Code by (Amendment) act of 1870.


In the case of Rajiv Kumar v. the State of UP,[4] the court mentioned the essentials of criminal conspiracy:-

  1. Presence of two or more persons.
  2. Illegal act.
  3. Any act did illegally.
  4. Consensus ad idem
  5. Agreement to carry out the same object.

The presence of the abovementioned elements is very much required to carry out the act of criminal conspiracy. Further, in the case of Pratapbhai Hamirbhai Solanki v. the State of Gujarat[5] and another, the Apex Court observed that intention (mens rea) forms the most important ingredient of criminal conspiracy.

Again, in the case of Mohd. Khalid v. State of West Bengal [6]and Devender Pal Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi),[7] the Apex Court took such reference from UK and USA explained the essentials of criminal conspiracy in nutshell. The essentials of criminal conspiracy in India are:-

  1. The accomplishment of an object.
  2. Scheme for the accomplishment of that very object.
  3. Agreement between two or more.
  4. The act must be overt.

In Bimbdhar Pradhan v. the State of Orissa,[8] the Supreme Court observed that even an individual man could be punished for a criminal offence. Here, it is important to prove that more than one person was involved in the offence.

But later in the case of State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini,[9] popularly known as the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the court stated that mere knowledge of conspiracy does not make the person liable for criminal conspiracy.


Criminal conspiracy is a substantive offence. The agreement is the rock bottom of such offence rather it can be said that such agreement is called the sine qua non to constitute the illegal act of criminal conspiracy. It also involves the unity of object and purpose and it can be expressed or implied between two or more persons. The maxim consensus ad idem that is a meeting of minds play a vital role in this offence. The gist of this offence lies in breaking the laws. When two or more persons are involved and the object is achieved as per the agreement, the person can be held solely liable for the offence of criminal conspiracy.  Common intention is required to carry out the common design.

In this case, Mohd. Hussain Umar Kochra v. KS Dalip Singhji[10], the court observed that agreement is the gist of criminal conspiracy.

In Ram Narayan Popli v. CBI[11], the court pointed out some of the aspects of criminal conspiracy:-

  1. The accomplishment of an object.
  2. Plan to accomplish that object.
  3. Agreement for the accomplishment of that object by way plan or scheme.
  4. A proper jurisdiction where the statute required an overt act.


As the word suggests “Proof of conspiracy, it usually means a hatched secrecy. It is somewhat psychological. To prove, the conspiracy is always difficult. Proof can be obtained through Direct Evidence and Circumstantial Evidence

I’m the case of Quinn v. Leathern, it was held that there can be circumstantial or direct evidence as well. The act only conspires here. In Bhagwan Swaroop Lai Bishan Lai v. the State of Maharashtra[12], the court held that an act of agency can be held liable for criminal conspiracy.


The nature and scope of criminal conspiracy talk about the punishment of criminal conspiracy. The offender committing such h heinous act shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment or death. The nature of punishment is punitive. Ithe n case of State of Maharashtra & Ors. v. Som Nath Thapa & Ors[13], the court stated that charges will be framed only if the person was aware of co-conspirators and their motive.


Upon reading the provisions of criminal conspiracy it can be concluded that it is difficult to support the charges of another conspiracy through evidence and it can be proved only by a chain of events. This was held in the landmark case of Param Hans Yadav v. the State of Bihar.[14]The national commission of criminal defence has recommended that changes are required regarding conspiracy and proof of conspiracy. The reforms are still not implemented because the considerations are still on the table.

Author(s) Name: Neha Raj (Amity University, Chhattisgarh)


[1] (1868) LR 3 HL 306

[2] (1986) 2 S.C.R 284

[3] Supra note 1

[4] Appeal (Crl) 251 of 2017

[5] (2013) 1 SCC 613

[6] (2002) 7 SCC 334

[7] AIR 2002 SC 1661

[8] AIR 1956 SC 469

[9] AIR 1999 SC 2640

[10] 1970 AIR 45

[11] 2003 (1) SCR 119

[12] 1992 AIR 675

[13] 1966 AIR 1744

[14] 1987 AIR 955

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