When multiple people do an act, the concepts of common intention and common object are drawn to the situation. Section 34 of the IPC defines the term “common intention,” and Section 149 of the IPC defines the term “common object.” Together, they illustrate the principle of constructive liability, according to which a person is liable for the effects of another person’s amendment; nevertheless, Sections 34 and 149 should never be used in conjunction with one another. The law of common intention is not equivalent to the law of equity in Sections 34 and 149 and has distinct characteristics.
In the matter of Arjun Thakur Alias Singh and Anr. v. State, the Orissa High Court held that “shared intention” and “common object” should not be confused as required by section 149 when interpreting the intent of section 34 of the IPC. Despite their close relationship, the two expressions are not interchangeable and should be maintained separate because they have different historical uses. Citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. Emperor, the court stated that while an unlawful assembly’s “goal” may be shared, the intentions of its many participants may vary and, in fact, may only be identical inasmuch as it is unlawful.
Joint liability is a concept introduced in Section 34 that exists in both civil and criminal law. It discusses a situation in which numerous people commit a crime with a particular criminal motive or understanding. Each person who participates in the act with such knowledge or intent is held accountable in the same way as if he alone had carried out that understanding or intention. The Indian Penal Code’s Section 149, on the other hand, relates to any action taken in furtherance of an unlawful assembly’s common purpose.
The notion of joint liability is used when more than one person commits a specific offence, creating a complicated situation that makes it impossible to ascertain each person’s purpose and conduct. It is crucial for the accused to actively take part in a criminal act while being aware of the repercussions and having a common aim. While the common object does not require a prior agreement of minds and all parties may or may not be equally responsible, the common intention must be incidental to the act and conduct of the accused and the circumstances of the case. As a result, the present research will compare and contrast sections 34 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 34 of IPC
According to Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, each person who commits a crime in furtherance of the group’s common goal is held accountable for it in the same way as if he had done it alone. The concept of joint culpability in a common criminal act is implied in this section. The common aim that can be derived from each case’s facts and circumstances is the section’s main focus. Each person must share the other’s objective in order for the section to function. One of the earliest instances of another person being convicted by the tribunal for an act committed by another in support of a common aim occurred in the case of Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. Emperors. At the post office, the sub-postmaster was seated at his desk and counting the cash. As he was doing this, a group of armed individuals burst into the police station and demanded money from him. They fired bullets from the gun at the postmaster almost instantly, killing him there and there. None of the defendants demanded payment and all fled. The opportunity existed for the police to apprehend Barendra Kumar Ghosh, who stayed outside the post office, as a gatekeeper.
Barendra argued that he was simply staying on as a watchman, but the court still found him guilty of homicide in accordance with Section 34 of IPC 302 r/w. After that, when he appealed to the Privy Council, his request was rejected. The court concluded from this that a claim made under section 34 of the IPC will also include an error and provide an example of failing to do something that, if done, may prevent murder. The detainee did exactly that by holding up close to the entrance, as the court noted that “those similarly serve who only stand and pause.” In search of one normal expectation, the court stated that few people might perform a few distinctive or comparable demonstrations.
The court makes it clear that where there is only one normal goal, regardless of whether one person submits the lethal act performed by another, he will still be held accountable for it since it will be considered that he was the one who committed it. The term “Act” is used in this section and is defined in accordance with section 33 of the IPC as follows: the term “Act” denotes both a series of acts as well as a single act. Both Sections 34 and 33 make it very apparent that the term “criminal act” refers to more than one act and would encompass an entire series of crimes. A preconcert in the sense of a separate prior plan is not required to be proven under this clause. At the location itself, the shared aim might also emerge. It might be challenging. Obtain direct proof of shared intent, if at all possible. Most of the time, it must be inferred from the accused’s actions or behaviour as well as other pertinent facts. The Indian Penal Code’s Chapter Two, “General Explanation,” Sections 34 to 38, outlines the circumstances under which a person may be held constructively accountable for the actions of other group members.
However, there need not have been any time between the meeting of the minds and the executory act reflecting the purpose created in the minds of the offenders. Instead, evidence must prove the meeting of minds and the fusion of ideas. This section’s constructive liability is a key component. In other words, the location must actually be present at the scene of the crime in order for the section to be in effect if there is actual participation by multiple people in the crime. The simultaneous agreement of the different participant types performing the crime in order to achieve a specific outcome might be considered the essence of this section. All those present at the location can establish the participants’ consensus there and then. This section was created to address situations where it can be challenging to discern between the actions of various party members in order to precisely demonstrate what role each member of the party played. When involvement in an action with the intent to commit a crime is proven, the section’s components are immediately drawn. The phrase “in furtherance” in the clause implies that when numerous people band together with the intention of committing any criminal offence, everyone who helps carry out the intended crime will be held equally responsible. The provision is also applicable where the act committed does not perfectly match the intention shared by the offenders in committing the offence. The fundamental element of constructive liability is the shared purpose that drives an accused person to commit a crime and the shared purpose that drives them to do so.
Common Intention is differentiated from Same or Similar Intentions
The difference between a typical goal and a similar goal is clear. It is insufficient to show that the participants’ motivations for carrying out the unlawful demonstration were comparable in order to invoke the provisions of section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The charging document must also show that each of the offenders likely shared the other’s intentions, such as by showing that they had a common expectation to carry out the unlawful act. The phrase in facilitation of the regular aim of all of Section 34 hypothesises that one or all of the blamed individuals completed the illegal demonstration grumbled against in facilitation of the typical goal of each and every one of them. As a result, each person will be just as responsible for the result as if he had accomplished it alone. However, the criminal demonstration is not accomplished in support of a coordinated arrangement by the accused, even if it has a similar or identical goal. As a result, a prior agreement existed before the demonstration that was filed. As an illustration, M, N, and O went to murder Y. When he returned from his night-time walk, they wanted to attack him. They all attacked C and killed him. Under section 302 read together with section 34, each of them is in danger. Both those who actively participated in committing a criminal act and those who assisted in its execution are subject to the same legal obligations under normal circumstances, or section 34.
Similar objectives or shared objectives may not require a coordinated plan. This prevents a prior agreement from existing before the demonstration is presented. For instance, due to a variety of factors and occurrences, An, B, and Z are not friendly. A and B arrive at the street from various directions and encounter Z. Z is attacked by An, who uses his sword to cut Z, and B, who uses a club. M has been beaten and cut to death by both An and B. For this case, each An and B is required by area 302 on their own. Hence, if multiple people expressed desire in taking responsibility for the violation and had the same or similar expectations, their protests would be met with resistance. Additionally, those who assisted in the illegal demonstration’s duty are rejected as aiding and abetting.
Ingredients of Section 34
More than one person must have committed the aforementioned crime. Because they intended to join the practitioner in another criminal demonstration when it was concluded, the others won’t be held accountable if the criminal demonstration was a fresh, spontaneous idea that sprang entirely from the practitioner’s mind. Despite the fact that each confederate’s criminal behaviour may be demonstrated in a different way, they are all required to take part in it in some way. The common objective to commit a criminal act on the side of the group’s shared goal is where the centre of joint responsibility under Section 34 is located. The phrase “normal expectation” refers to previous earlier performance, such as an agreement and the participation of all attendees in carrying out that arrangement. Each participant may perform a different type of demonstration, but they all need to achieve the same general objective.
In the case of Mahboob Shah v. Emperor, Allahdad, the deceased in the present case, along with a very small number of others left their town and relied on a boat to travel down the Indus River to cut and gather reeds on the bank of the river. When they had travelled along the stream’s surge for almost a mile, they came across Mohammad Hussain Shah washing on the bank. Wali Shah’s father was Hussain Shah. Allahdad and his companions were forewarned by Hussain not to take reeds from the area where they had a place. Despite the warning, Allahdad and his companions gathered the reeds and began their return journey while carrying the parcel of gathered reeds. On their way back, they collided with Ghulam Shah, Hussain Shah’s nephew. When Ghulam Shah asked them to return the reeds they had taken from the area where his uncle is located, they refused. They started arguing, and Ghulam Shah eventually grabbed hold of the boat’s rope, shoved Allahdad, and gave him a stick-to-nose that he managed to dodge. At that point, Allahdad whacked Ghulam Shah with a bamboo pole he had taken from the boat. Then, Ghulam Shah shouted for assistance.
After it, stacked weapons were followed by Mahboob Shah and Wali Shah. Allahdad and his buddy Hamidullah noticed them and started to run away. Then, at that point, Wali Shah reached Hamidullah, who soon passed away, and Mahboob Shah reached Allahdad, who sustained some injuries. Wali Shah ran off. The Indian Penal Code’s Section 302 read together with Section 34 was used to try Mahboob Shah and Ghulam Shah (a nephew of Hussain Shah) (later surrenders to wounds endured). Mahboob Shah was sentenced to seven years of solitary confinement for trying to kill someone. In addition, the Lahore High Court harshly sentenced him for killing Allahdad in accordance with Section 302 read in conjunction with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code upon request. Mahboob Shah argued against his conviction in a Privy Council speech. Privy Council gave the go-ahead for his seduction. In this case, the court ruled that a coordinated plan should be in place to achieve the normal goal. The court mentioned that it should be determined whether Mahboob Shah and Wali Shah were acting normally when Ghulam Shah requested assistance. The court recognised that Mahboob Shah and Wali Shah might have had similar expectations when Ghulam Shah requested the use of a pistol, but there was no evidence to suggest that the two had a prearranged plan to define a common objective.
The common purpose is frequently confused with Section 149, which states that every member of the unlawful group is responsible for the offence included in the indictment of a common item. It should be obvious that the activities of the two areas are in contradiction to one another. The Indian Penal Code’s Sections 149 and 34 regulate the affiliation of a person who is subject to punishment for the evidence they present. It is not necessary to show that each of them was involved in the clear demonstration in order to qualify as a vicarious offender under IPC Sections 34 or 149. This rule was upheld in the Ram Bilas Singh v. State of Bihar case, where it was stated that each person’s punishment sentence depends on the type and seriousness of the violation they committed during their demonstration.
Section 149 under IPC
According to section 149 of the IPC, if an offence is committed in furtherance of an unlawful assembly’s object by a member of that assembly, everyone who was a member of that assembly at the time of the offence is also guilty of that offence. This Section can easily be interpreted as meaning that anyone who is a member of the same group at the time of the commission of the offence will be held legally responsible for that offence if the offence is reported by any member of an unlawful gathering in the indictment of the usual reason for that group or as the members of that group knew likely to be reported in the arraignment of that reason. Section 149 also states that the penalty is applicable to offences committed before the unlawful gathering.
If the arraignment is intended to establish a person’s guilt under Section 149 of the IPC, it must indicate the person’s presence at the scene and his participation in the illegal gathering. This section introduces a positive or vicarious risk for the poorly thought-out acts submitted in an effort to do the right thing on the members of the illegal group. Before convicting anyone under section 149, the Apex Court stated in the matter of Bhudeo Mandal v. the State of Bihar that the proof must clearly indicate both the common object and that the common object was unlawful. The prosecution and appellants disagreed over irrigation in this case. According to the indictment, the appellants needed to water the land, and when Mainu Mandal objected to their not doing so, Bhudeo Mandal—who is now dead—hit the deceased Mainu Mandal. Different appellants were armed with lathis, but they didn’t inflict any injuries on bystanders or the dead meetings judge, who had indicted the accused Bhudeo Mandal under section 304 IPC and sentenced him to eternal detention as well as other appellants under section 326/149 IPC and sentenced them to three years of rigorous detention. However, the accused were cleared of the specific charges under sections 323 and 325 of the IPC.
It is important to make a clear determination on the concept of the typical item and the fact that such an article is illegal before charging the accused under Section 149. The lack of such discoveries, along with any clear follow-up on the part of the accused, and the mere fact that the accused were dressed would not be sufficient to show the typical item. Different appellants in this instance were merely playing with lathis; nonetheless, they didn’t assault anyone. In this case, neither evidence nor findings suggested that the indictment had built up any essential components of Section 149. As a result, the appellants were freed from their bail bonds and did not have to give up. In Ram Dhani v. State, the plaintiff cited the accused party’s crop-cutting as evidence in a land dispute. The latter were assembled and more numerous than five in order to escape being cut. The tribunal determined that those defending their property in self-defense could not be a part of an unauthorised gathering. It was therefore impossible to claim that they organised an unlawful assembly.
Ingredients of Section 149
An infraction committed by participants in an unauthorised gathering: In Yunis alias Kariya v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court ruled that the defendant’s participation in an illegal gathering was sufficient to support the conviction. Even if the accused is not held accountable for any overt act, the fact that he participated in the illegal assembly and his presence at the time of the incident is sufficient to hold him accountable. However, a person cannot be held responsible for an illegal gathering just by being present, unless they are acting in accordance with a normal article that is one of the items listed in Section 141.
Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code lists the specifics of an unlawful gathering. It states that a gathering of at least five people is an unlawful gathering if any of the following are the usual purpose of the gathering:
- To display one’s criminal prowess.
- Interfering with legal or law enforcement processes.
- Engaging in criminal activity or crime.
- Using criminal force to make someone else do something they are not required by law.
- Possession of property by the use of unlawful force.
- Utilizing or displaying criminal force to exempt someone from using incorporeal law.
In prosecution of the common object
The influence of the gathering’s shared goal is “not signified” by the pursuit of the common goal. The phrase “in arraignment the normal article” indicates that the offence reported was immediately tied to the typical element of the group, of which the accused were members. The demonstration should show how the goal attributed to the members of the illegal meeting was achieved. It is important to carefully interpret the phrase “in the indictment of the regular thing” as meaning “to accomplish the common purpose.”
Members knew to be likely
The second portion deals with an instance where the assembly members were aware that the crime would likely be committed in the course of pursuing the common goal. When something is most likely to happen, it may happen, or it will most likely occur. The word “known” indicates a perspective at the time of an offence, not the only possibility. Demonstrations of information are required. The word “likely” denotes some firm evidence that the illegal gathering had access to such information. The arraignment should demonstrate that not only did the accused know that the crime was likely to be prosecuted, but also that it was likely to be prosecuted in relation to the group’s primary goal.
Five or more persons
It is essential to show that the shared object was used by approximately five people in order to apply this section. Even though it’s possible that some of them are recognisable or that their character was questionable, the existence of at least five people needs to be independently verified. In fact, sentences can occasionally be given to children as young as five. However, no conviction is likely even if it is iffy that there were roughly five people charged under this provision.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860’s Section 142 makes it easier to identify the characteristics that constitute membership in an illegal group. Assuming someone participates in or continues to be a member of an unlawful meeting while being aware of the circumstances that render it unlawful.
Differentiation between Common Intention & Common Object
Both Sections 34 and 149 of the IPC impose vicarious liability on everyone for actions that are not actually carried out by them. However, there is a restriction on the scope and type of action of the two offences.
- Particularly if some of the accused are found not guilty and the total number of accused falls below 5, Section 34 of the IPC will take the place of the accusation under Section 149. The tribunal would need to carefully examine the evidence in this situation to determine whether there is any evidence of a common intention for which it can be held accountable under Section 34.
- Section 34 only outlines the concept of joint criminal culpability and does not define any specific crimes. While being a part of an unlawful assembly is a specific offence under Section 149, it is also a crime punishable under Section 143.
- The term “common object” must be one of the five ingredients listed in Section 141 of the IPC, although the term “common intent” used in S.34 has not been defined anywhere in the IPC.
- Open action has been made to promote the common goal of all, which calls for an initial convergence of thought and unity of purpose. A common object can be developed without a prior meeting of the minds if the participants’ intentions are distinct but the common object of the members of the unlawful assembly is one. A single criminal act is all that is required to advance a common goal.
- The involvement of two or more people is sufficient to invoke Section 34. However, there must be a minimum of 5 individuals in order to enforce Section 149.
- ‘Participation’ is a crucial component of S.34, although it is not necessary for someone to actively participate in S.149 of the IPC.
- The common intention of any kind is required by Section 34. A common object under Section 149 must be one of the things mentioned in Section 141.
- Section 34 calls for some active participation, especially when it comes to crimes involving physical abuse. Section 149 does not need active participation; rather, membership in an illegal assembly that has a shared goal entails accountability.
Section 34 does not impose any sanctions for joint culpability; it only defines it. This section must be read in conjunction with a number of other IPC sections, including Section 149, which deals with unlawful assemblies, Section 120A, which defines criminal conspiracy, and Section 120B, which outlines the associated penalties. To hold a person jointly accountable for the offence, Law 34 must be applied in conjunction with another section and cannot be applied in isolation. People don’t necessarily have to have the same motives to commit crimes. It’s plausible that they happened to be there by chance and had no joint motive, which is what Section 34 of the IPC is based on.
Whether Sections 34 or 149 apply to determine vicarious culpability depends on the manner used to commit the offence. Under two chapters of the IPC, General Explanation and Of Offenses against Public Tranquillity, there are two provisions managing “common intention” and “common object,” respectively. Sometimes it becomes difficult to demonstrate with evidence whether they had a common objective or not, as well as how many people with the same common goal were participants in the unlawful assembly. However, the Supreme Court eliminated these ambiguities in a number of cases after analysing the circumstances and facts of each case.
India’s Law Commission also provided the Legislature with numerous proposals to alter various parts of the statute in order to have a clearer and better understanding. Finally, I can state that both Section 34 and Section 149 hold a person vicariously liable for the deeds of his friends. Both provisions should be inferred from the facts and circumstances of the case because they are often impossible to establish with direct evidence.
Author: Arryan Mohanty,
Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur/Student