This article is written by Jaya Vats, a practising advocate in Delhi. In this article, the author gives out a detailed study of Section 34 IPC and also provides an in-depth analysis of the meaning, object, appeal, and consequences of Section 34 IPC.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
It is a well-established principle of criminal law that a person is solely accountable for crimes committed by himself and not for conduct committed by others. In other words, the main concept of criminal culpability is that the individual who actually commits an offence bears the primary responsibility, and only that person may be declared guilty and punished in line with the law. Opposing this general rule, Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) states that when criminal conduct is committed by numerous people in pursuit of a ‘common intention’, each of them is accountable for the crime in the same way as if it were committed by him alone. This clause, which establishes a principle of shared accountability in the commission of a criminal act, is an exception to a fundamental canon of criminal law. The core of joint culpability is found in the existence of a shared goal energizing the accused, which leads to the commission of a criminal act in pursuit of that intention.
Before moving any further, one must understand the connotation of the term ‘common intention’. A common intention is defined as a predetermined plan acting in concert in accordance with the plan. It must be proven that the criminal act was committed in coordination with a pre-planned scheme. It exists prior to the commission of the act in time, but it does not have to be a large gap. Sometimes common intentions can be created on the spot if the gap is not too long. The primary aspect is a pre-planned strategy to carry out the plan for the intended result. Each of such individuals shall be held accountable for an act performed in pursuit of a shared intention as if the conduct were performed by a single individual. Common intention does not imply that numerous people have the same intention. To establish a common intention, each of them must be aware of and embrace the objective of the others.
For example, four people intend to beat ‘A’ along the river. And as soon as they arrived at the location to defeat ‘A’, they encountered ‘B’, A’s adversary. After learning their strategy, B joins forces with those four individuals in order to defeat ‘A’. ‘B’ had decided to join them on the spot, as he also had the same intention (i.e. to beat A), which qualified everyone to come under the ambit of ‘common intention’.
Section 34 IPC
According to the broad principles of criminal culpability, the individual or person who commits the offence has the primary responsibility, and only that person may be found guilty and punished for the crime committed. However, the IPC has several clauses that involve the notion of ‘common intention’, which is present in criminal law jurisprudence across the world. This theory allows an individual to be held criminally responsible for a crime committed by another individual if the act was undertaken as part of a common purpose agreed upon by the accused and the other individual(s). One such section is Section 34 of the IPC.
Section 34 of the IPC 1860 stipulates that when multiple people commit criminal conduct in pursuit of a common intention, each of them is accountable for the act in the same way as if it were committed by him alone. This clause, which establishes ‘joint culpability’ for an act, is an exception to a fundamental principle of criminal law. The core of joint culpability is the presence of a common intention in all parties concerned, which leads to the commission of criminal conduct in pursuit of that common goal.
Section 34 makes no mention of any specific offence. It establishes the rule of evidence that if two or more people commit a crime for the same purpose, they will be found jointly accountable.
Object of Section 34 IPC
Section 34 is intended to cope with a scenario in which it may be impossible to discern between unlawful acts committed by individual party members working in support of a common objective or to show precisely what role each of them played. The existence of an accomplice gives assistance, support, protection, and trust to an individual who is actually participating in illegal conduct, which is why all are judged guilty in such circumstances. As a result, any individual implicated in the commission of a criminal offence is held accountable for his involvement in the act done, even though the exact conduct in issue was not undertaken by either participant of the group. There must be a specific aim, the achievement of which is the ultimate goal of all group members. Every individual involved in the commission of a crime is held liable under this provision by virtue of his or her involvement in the illegal act.
Nature of Section 34 IPC
Section 34 only provides a broad concept of joint culpability. It does not result in any significant or appropriate offence. There is no mention of any specific offence. If two or more individuals conduct a crime in furtherance of a common intention, they might be held jointly responsible for an IPC offence. Thus, if the requirements of Section 34 IPC are met, two or more individuals might be found accountable for any offence listed in that section. Thus, whether an offence is cognizable, non-cognizable, bailable, or non-bailable is determined by the nature of the act committed and the nature specified in the Sections under which the accused is charged.
Need of Section 34 IPC
Section 34 is a critical component of Indian criminal law. It establishes a generic provision for use in cases when proving the exact level of culpability and responsibilities of the parties/persons involved in a joint criminal act is difficult. Section 34 assists in finding individual accountability where it is difficult to prove individual liability for activities done in support of the common objective of all persons engaged.
Essentials constituting Section 34 IPC
Section 34, like any other crime, has several requirements that must be met in order to find a person accountable for joint culpability. These are the following:
A criminal act committed by multiple people
The most significant need is that criminal conduct be committed and that it be done by numerous people. It is necessary to commit or refrain from criminal conduct. The deeds undertaken by various confederates in criminal activity may differ, but all must collaborate or engage in the illegal business in some way. The core of Section 34 is the simultaneous agreement of the minds of those involved in the illegal activity to achieve a specific or intended goal.
The shared intent of all individuals to perform the unlawful act
As previously noted, the core of joint culpability under Section 34 of the IPC is the existence of a common purpose to commit a criminal act in pursuit of a common goal shared by all members of that group. The phrase “common intention” indicates a prior concert or meeting of minds, as well as the participation of all members of that group. The activities performed by various members of that group may range in degree and type, but they must all be motivated by the same common objective.
All people engaged in the commission of the act (in furtherance of that shared intention)
A criminal act committed by the entire group is required to establish joint culpability. It is critical that the court determine some illegal conduct was committed with the group’s cooperation in pursuit of the common intention. The individual who initiates or assists in the conduct of the crime must physically do an act to facilitate the commission of the real (planned) crime.
Difference between common intention and same intention
In order to invoke Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, there must be a single intention shared by everyone. The phrases ‘common intention’ and ‘same intention’ may seem similar, but they are not the same.
A common intention is a pre-arranged plan or previous meeting of minds before the act’s commitment. The term ‘common’ refers to anything that everyone has in the same proportion. It is typical for them to have a shared object, purpose, or objective.
Same intention, on the other hand, is not common intention because it does not entail a pre-planned meeting, sharing, or thinking.
For example, A is B’s office co-worker. Even though A is higher in seniority, B gets promoted. A and B are enemies. A intends to exact revenge on B. B, on the other hand, has responsibilities as the house’s oldest son. C, who is younger than B, was upset because his older brother B was promoted. A decides to murder B on his way home from work one day. C, the younger brother, also intends to murder B on his way home. A and C both catch and kill B at the same location. They’ve both killed B here. However, they do not have the same goal. They both wanted to assassinate B, but their methods were different, and their intentions were not the same. A and C are accountable for whatever conduct they perform but are not liable for the act of another.
Difference between common intention and common object
Section 149 of the IPC defines common object. Section 149, like Section 34, provides for constructive joint responsibility. Section 149 establishes a particular offence. The section states that if an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly understood to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that aim, every person who, at the time of the commission of that offence, is a member of that assembly, is guilty of that crime.
The distinction between common intention and common object is as follows:
|Section 34 IPC||Section 149 IPC|
|According to Section 34, the number of participants must be greater than one.||Section 149 requires a minimum of five people.|
|Section 34 does not constitute a distinct crime but rather establishes a rule of proof.||Section 149 establishes a particular offence.|
|Section 34 requires that the common intention be of any type.||Section 149 requires that the common item be one of the objects listed in Section 141.|
|Section 34 necessitates a previous meeting of minds or prearranged plot, i.e. all of the accused parties must meet together before the actual attack takes place.||Prior agreement is not required under Section 149. It is necessary to be a member of an unlawful assembly at the time of the offence.|
|Section 34 requires some active participation, particularly in a crime involving physical violence.||Section 149 does not need active involvement, and responsibility arises simply by being a member of an unlawful assembly with a shared goal.|
What to do if charged under Section 34 IPC
Being charged with a crime in India is a serious thing to deal with. A criminal case is difficult not just for the accused but also for the victim. If a person is convicted of a crime in India, he/she may suffer harsh punishment. However, it is equally difficult for the petitioner to establish the allegations leveled against him/her. This is why both the petitioner and the defendant must carefully prepare for the case. A person involved in such a case must be aware of all of his or her rights both before and after arrest. Both parties must use the services of their attorneys for this reason. A timeline of events should also be developed and written down so that the lawyer may be briefed on the matter more easily. This will also assist the lawyer in developing a plan to successfully conduct the trials and persuade the court to rule in your favor. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, the lawyer will be able to advise you on the potential defences, plea bargains that are likely to be offered, and the expected outcome of the trial.
Furthermore, a thorough comprehension of the legislation involved in a criminal case is essential. One must consult with his or her lawyer to comprehend the procedure as well as the applicable law.
What to do if falsely charged with a criminal offence under Section 34 IPC
People are frequently wrongly accused in Section 34 situations. In such cases, it is critical to construct one’s case in such a way that useful evidence may be presented in court to show a person’s innocence. The accused must consult with his or her lawyer and describe the full circumstances to him or her, since even little modifications might have a significant influence on the case. A person should completely discuss the situation with the lawyer, even if he or she believes that they were unable to make their lawyer comprehend some of the complexities involved in the case before. A person must also conduct his or her own study on the matter and prepare for the trials with the assistance of a lawyer. A person should carefully follow their lawyer’s instructions and seek guidance on even small matters such as court appearances, cross-examinations, and so on.
Trial/ Court Procedure for a Section 34 IPC case
The start of a criminal trial court procedure is determined by whether the offence committed is cognizable or non-cognizable. Because Section 34 is a broad provision, the trial or criminal court procedure would be determined by the other sections of the IPC under which the accused has been charged. However, in most cases, an FIR initiates a trial. The following is a general criminal trial procedure:
- The initial step is to file a First Information Report. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure addresses this. An FIR initiates the entire case.
- The Investigation Officer conducts an investigation following the filing of the FIR. The officer completes and prepares the investigation after an evaluation of the facts and circumstances, the collection of evidence, examination of individuals, and other relevant measures.
- The charge sheet is subsequently presented to the magistrate by the police. The charge-sheet lists all of the criminal charges filed against the accused.
- The Magistrate hears the parties’ arguments on the charges that have been set on the scheduled day of the hearing and subsequently frames the charges.
- Following the formulation of the accusations, the accused is given the chance to plead guilty, and it is the judge’s obligation to ensure that the plea of guilt was made willingly. The judge may convict the accused at his or her discretion.
- Following the formulation of the accusations and the accused’s plea of ‘not guilty,’ the evidence is first presented by the prosecution, who bears the first (usually) burden of proof. It is possible to produce both oral and documentary proof. The magistrate has the authority to summon anybody as a witness or to require the production of any document.
- Witnesses for the prosecution are cross-examined in court by the accused or his or her lawyer.
- At this point, if the accused has any proof, it is presented to the courts. He/she is given this opportunity to strengthen his/her case. However, because the prosecution has the burden of proof, the accused is not compelled to produce evidence.
- If the defence calls witnesses, the prosecution will cross-examine them.
- The evidence is finished by the Court/Judge after both parties have given evidence to the court.
- The stage of final arguments is reaching the end of the process. In this case, both sides (the prosecution and the defence) take turns making final oral arguments in front of the court.
- The Court renders its final decision based on the facts and circumstances of that case, as well as the arguments made and evidence presented. The Court states its reasoning for acquitting or convicting the accused and issues its final ruling.
- If the accused is found guilty, they are convicted; if found not guilty, the accused is acquitted.
- If the accused is found guilty and convicted, a hearing will be held to determine the severity or length of the sentence or jail time.
- If the circumstances permit, an appeal to the higher courts can be made. An appeal from the Sessions Court can be brought to the High Court, and from the High Court to the Supreme Court.
Bail in a Section 34 IPC case
As previously noted, Section 34 is a generic clause that applies to any offence (under IPC) committed in furtherance of a common objective. Thus, whether you may receive bail as a matter of right (bailable offence) or not relies on the accusation against the accused. For example, if the accused is charged with murder, he or she will not be granted bail as a matter of right since murder is not a bailable offence under Section 302 of the IPC. Similarly, if two or more people are charged with a bailable offence, the accused will likely be granted bail, depending on the facts and circumstances of each instance.
Appeal under Section 34 IPC
An appeal is like being given a second shot at life. It is the process through which a lower/subordinate court’s judgment or order can be appealed before a higher court. Either party to the dispute before the lower court may file an appeal. The person who files or continues an appeal is known as the appellant, and the court where the appeal is lodged is known as the Appellate Court.
A party has no inherent right to dispute a court’s judgment/order before its higher or superior court. An appeal can be filed only if it is explicitly permitted by law and must be submitted in the prescribed form and within the relevant time frame. An appeal should also be submitted within a reasonable time frame.
If there are strong reasons for it, an appeal can be filed in a higher court. A district/magistrate court decision can be appealed to the Sessions court. An appeal from the Sessions Court can be brought to the High Court, and from the High Court to the Supreme Court.
Any individual convicted in a trial before a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge, or in a trial before any other court, and sentenced to more than 7 years in jail for himself or another person in the same trial, may appeal to the High Court. Thus, whether or not a party can appeal is determined by the offence accused as well as the facts and circumstances of each case.
Consequences of Section 34 IPC
An individual accused of a crime and punishable under Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code faces a slew of unpleasant repercussions. Some of them are listed below.
- Ignominy for all: In a Section 34 case, inferences are derived through presumptions, making the case much more convoluted and hence even more difficult for adjudicators to assess clearly. In such circumstances, the theory of joint culpability is used, which holds that every single accused is presumed to be guilty of engaging in criminal conduct in pursuit of a common objective, which was thus shared with and all accomplices were aware of. Section 34 cases are complicated in nature.
- Accused may encounter difficulties at work: Because such cases take a long time to complete and usually demand the presence of the accused, there is a considerable risk of such accused being entangled in court processes, which may cause difficulties at work.
- Suffering experienced by persons related to the accused: As a result, the accused’s brothers, siblings, children, relatives, and other family members may also experience suffering and other comparable concerns.
- Dragging of the case: In situations involving Section 34, when numerous accused are involved, the case tends to become difficult, and it can take a long time to get a clear picture of the real events, as well as the intention and part played by each accused, causing the case to drag on for a long period, adding to the accused’s misery, harassment, and abuse.
- Treating the suspected as a criminal: There is a considerable risk that the accused will be regarded as a criminal and so will not be handled correctly. While confronting the processes begun against him, the accused may eventually lose self-respect, confidence, dignity, and hope.
- Negative health consequences: The accused’s physical and mental health may be negatively affected, leading to an imbalanced existence.
- Co-accused can be prosecuted even if they did not actively participate in the overt act: When many people are charged with conspiracy for committing an offence, there is a chance that a few of them did not actively participate in such conspiracy by doing an overt act, but they can still be punished as if the crime was committed by them if it is proven that such accused conspired with those who did the overt act.
- Individual liability can also be fixed when the charge under Section 34 of conspiring and committing an offence fails to be established: If the charge under Section 34 of conspiring and committing an offence fails to be established in a particular situation, the Court can still proceed with fixing individual liability after analyzing the individual acts performed by the accused in accordance with the charges that are framed individually against them.
Because Section 34 only gives a broad description of what constitutes joint accountability, no appropriate penalty has been specified for illegal conduct committed jointly by two or more people (in pursuance of common intention). This Section is only a rule of evidence in and of itself. It does not cause a significant offence. Section 34, on its own, does not constitute any clear or unique offence; rather, it establishes a concept of culpability, declaring that if two or more people violate the law, or commit a crime under the Indian Penal Code, both (or all) of them will be held accountable for that crime. As a result, the sentences under Section 34 will be consistent with the punishments imposed for the offences committed under the Indian Penal Code.
Section 34 of the IPC is a constructive responsibility concept, with the core of the culpability being the presence of shared intention in the minds of the accused. Because Section 34 cannot constitute an offence in and of itself, whenever criminal conduct is committed by two or more people, both sections, i.e., the part providing for the criminal offence and the section providing for joint culpability (Section 34), shall be applied. For example, if a murder is committed in furtherance of a shared goal, both parties will be held accountable under Section 302 of the IPC as well as Section 34 of the IPC.
Section 34 of the IPC is usually read in conjunction with other substantive sections of the IPC because no crime is stipulated under it.
One of the first instances in which a court condemned another person for the conduct of another person in furtherance of a common intention was Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. King Emperor, 1925 in which two people demanded money from a postman as he was counting the money, and when they shot from a handgun at the postmaster, he died on the spot. All of the suspects fled without taking any money. In this instance, Barendra Kumar claimed that he did not shoot the gun and was only standing by, but the courts rejected his appeal and found him guilty of murder under Sections 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court further held that it is not required that all participants participate equally. It is possible to accomplish more or less. However, this does not mean that the individual who did less should be exempt from blame. His legal responsibility is the same.
In the case of Pandurang v. State of Hyderabad,1955 the Court held that a person cannot be held vicariously accountable for the actions of another if their purpose to commit the crime was not common. It is not a common intention if their conduct is independent of the act of another. It will be known for the same purpose.
In the case of Ram Bilas Singh v. State of Bihar, 1963 the Court determined that the length of punishment for each individual engaged in that conduct with common intention is determined by the type and degree of the offence committed.
In Chhotu v. State of Maharashtra, 1998, the complainant party was attacked by the accused, resulting in one person’s death. According to the witness, three people were abusing the dead, while the fourth was merely standing there with a knife in his hand. It was held that only three of the four accused were responsible under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the IPC, and the fourth did not have the same purpose.
In the case of Mahboob Shah v. Emperor, 1945 the appellant Mahboob Shah was found guilty of the murder of Allah Dad by the Sessions Judge. He was found guilty and condemned to death by the Session tribunal. The death penalty was also affirmed by the High Court of Justice. The murder conviction and death sentence were reversed on appeal to the Lordship. “When Allahdad and Hamidullah sought to flee, Wali Shah and Mahboob Shah came next to them and fired, and therefore there was proof on the spur of the moment that they formed a common intention,” it was stated.
In the case of William Stanley v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1956, the accused was a 22-year-old man who was in love with the deceased’s sister. The deceased did not appreciate his closeness. On the day of the incident, the deceased and the accused had a disagreement, and the accused was ordered to leave the house. Later, the accused returned with his younger brother and summoned the deceased’s sister. The deceased brother appeared instead of the sister. A furious exchange of words ensued. The accused smacked the victim across the cheek. The accused then took his younger brother’s hockey stick and delivered a hit to the deceased’s head, fracturing his skull. Ten days later, the deceased died in the hospital. According to the doctor, the damage was severe enough to result in death. Both the accused and his co-accused brother were charged with murder under IPC sections 302 and 34.
In Krishnan v. State of Kerala, 1996, the Court stated that the required element under this clause is the criminal conduct committed in furtherance of a common intention, and Section 34 did not require anything else to be attracted. Although the court would want to hear about any overt conduct in determining whether the individual had a common intention, the court emphasized that the formation of an overt act is not a sine qua non for section 34 to function.
In the case of Khacheru Singh v. State of U.P., 1955, numerous people assaulted a man with lathis as he walked across a field. The man escaped them, and when they caught up with him, they assaulted him. It was determined that the facts of the case were adequate to establish that the accused parties shared a common purpose in conducting the criminal offence. As a result, the most important thing here is to demonstrate the shared intent, which may be done in any way.
When more than one person commits an offence, the case becomes more complicated in identifying each individual’s purpose and part. The notion of shared culpability is used in such instances. It is critical that the accused actively participate in criminal conduct while being aware of the consequences and sharing a common intention. However, the common intention must be ancillary to the accused’s acts and conduct, as well as the facts of the case.
- Is common intention enough to constitute a substantial offence?
Section 34 is an evidentiary regulation that does not generate a substantive offence. Section 34 is designed to address situations in which it may be difficult to discern between distinct acts.
- Can common intention be formed on the spot?
The Supreme Court decided in Kripal Singh v. State of U.P., 1954, that a common intention might exist in the place once the offenders had congregated there. A prior strategy is not required. The accused’s behaviour and the facts of the case can be used to establish common intent.
- Is it always required for the shared purpose to come before the conduct of a crime?
It must be proven that the criminal act was committed in coordination with a pre-planned scheme. It exists prior to the commission of the act in time, but it does not have to be a large gap. Sometimes common intention can be created on the spot if the gap is not too long.
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