Common Intention; Essential Ingredients of the Offence under Section 34 IPC

Common Intention : With regard to Section 34 IPC, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Dani Singh v. State of Bihar, reported in (2004) 13 SCC 203 have held as follows:

The section really means that if two or more persons intentionally do a common thing jointly, it is just the same as if each of them had done it individually. It is a well-recognised canon of criminal jurisprudence that the courts cannot distinguish between co-conspirators, nor can they inquire even if it were possible, as to the part taken by each in the crime.

Where parties go with a common purpose to execute a common object, each and every person becomes responsible for the act of each and every other in execution and furtherance of their common purpose; as the purpose is common, so must be the responsibility. All are guilty of the principal offence, not of abetment only. In a combination of this kind a mortal stroke, though given by one of the parties, is deemed in the eye of the law to have been given by every individual present and abetting. But a party not cognizant of the intention of his companion to commit murder is not liable, though he has joined his companion to do an unlawful act.

The leading feature of this section is the element of participation in action. The essence of liability under this section is the existence of a common intention animating the offenders and the participation in a criminal act in furtherance of the common intention. The essence is simultaneous consensus of the minds of persons participating in the criminal action to bring about a particular result. [Ramaswami Ayyangar v. State of T.N., (1976) 3 SCC 779]

The participation need not in all cases be by physical presence. In offences involving physical violence, normally presence at the scene of offence may be necessary, but such is not the case in respect of other offences when the offence consists of diverse acts which may be done at different times and places. The physical presence at the scene of offence of the offender sought to be rendered liable under this section is not one of the conditions of its applicability in every case.

Before a man can be held liable for acts done by another, under the provisions of this section, it must be established that: (i) there was common intention in the sense of a prearranged plan between the two, and (ii) the person sought to be so held liable had participated in some manner in the act constituting the offence. Unless common intention and participation are both present, this section cannot apply.

Common Intention

“Common intention” implies prearranged plan and acting in concert pursuant to the prearranged plan. Under this section a pre-concert in the sense of a distinct previous plan is not necessary to be proved. The common intention to bring about a particular result may well develop on the spot as between a number of persons, with reference to the facts of the case and circumstances of the situation. Though common intention may develop on the spot, it must, however, be anterior in point of time to the commission of offence showing a prearranged plan and prior concert. [Krishna Govind Patil v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1963 SC 1413]

In Amrik Singh v. State of Punjab, (1972) 4 SCC (N) 42 it has been held that common intention presupposes prior concert. Care must be taken not to confuse same or similar intention with common intention; the partition which divides their bonds is often very thin, nevertheless, the distinction is real and substantial, and if overlooked, will result in miscarriage of justice.

To constitute common intention, it is necessary that intention of each one of them be known to the rest of them and shared by them. Undoubtedly, it is a difficult thing to prove even the intention of an individual and, therefore, it is all the more difficult to show the common intention of a group of persons. But however difficult may be the task, the prosecution must lead evidence of facts, circumstances and conduct of the accused from which their common intention can be safely gathered.

In Maqsoodan v. State of U.P., (1983) 1 SCC 218 it was observed that prosecution must lead evidence from which the common intention of the accused can be safely gathered. In most cases it has to be inferred from the act, conduct or other relevant circumstances of the case in hand. The totality of the circumstances must be taken into consideration in arriving at a conclusion whether the accused had a common intention to commit offence for which they can be convicted.  The facts and circumstances of cases vary and each case has to be decided keeping in view the facts involved. Whether an act is in furtherance of the common intention is an incident of fact and not of law.

In Bhaba Nanda Sarma v. State of Assam, (1977) 4 SCC 396 it was observed that prosecution must prove facts to justify an inference that all participants of the acts had shared a common intention to commit the criminal act which was finally committed by one or more of the participants. Mere presence of a person at the time of commission of an offence by his confederates is not, in itself sufficient to bring his case within the purview of Section 34, unless community of design is proved against him. [Malkhan Singh v. State of U.P., (1975) 3 SCC 311]

Furtherance

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “furtherance” is defined as “action of helping forward”. Adopting this definition, Russell says that “it indicates some kind of aid or assistance producing an effect in future” and adds that any act may be regarded as done in furtherance of the ultimate felony if it is a step intentionally taken, for the purpose of effecting that felony. (Russell on Crime, 12th Edn., Vol. I, pp. 487 and 488.)

In Shankarlal Kacharabhai v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1965 SC 1260 Apex Court has interpreted the word “furtherance” as “advancement or promotion”.

In the case of Suresh v. State of U.P., (2001) 3 SCC 673, a three Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court with regard to Section 34 IPC have held as follows:

Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code recognises the principle of vicarious liability in criminal jurisprudence. It makes a person liable for action of an offence not committed by him but by another person with whom he shared the common intention. It is a rule of evidence and does not create a substantive offence. The section gives statutory recognition to the commonsense principle that if more than two persons intentionally do a thing jointly, it is just the same as if each of them had done it individually.

There is no gainsaying that a common intention presupposes prior concert, which requires a prearranged plan of the accused participating in an offence. Such pre-concert or pre-planning may develop on the spot or during the course of commission of the offence but the crucial test is that such plan must precede the act constituting an offence. Common intention can be formed previously or in the course of occurrence and on the spur of the moment. The existence of a common intention is a question of fact in each case to be proved mainly as a matter of inference from the circumstances of the case.

The dominant feature for attracting Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is the element of participation in absence resulting in the ultimate “criminal act”. The “act” referred to in the later part of Section 34 means the ultimate criminal act with which the accused is charged of sharing the common intention. The accused is, therefore, made responsible for the ultimate criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all. The section does not envisage the separate act by all the accused persons for becoming responsible for the ultimate criminal act. If such an interpretation is accepted, the purpose of Section 34 shall be rendered infructuous.

Participation in the crime in furtherance of the common intention cannot conceive of some independent criminal act by all accused persons, besides the ultimate criminal act because for that individual act law takes care of making such accused responsible under the other provisions of the Code.

The word “act” used in Section 34 denotes a series of acts as a single act. What is required under law is that the accused persons sharing the common intention must be physically present at the scene of occurrence and be shown not to have dissuaded themselves from the intended criminal act for which they shared the common intention. Culpability under Section 34 cannot be excluded by mere distance from the scene of occurrence.  The presumption of constructive intention, however, has to be arrived at only when the court can, with judicial servitude, hold that the accused must have preconceived the result that ensued in furtherance of the common intention.

A Division Bench of the Patna High Court in Satrughan Patar v. Emperor, AIR 1919 PAT 111 held that it is only when a court with some certainty holds that a particular accused must have preconceived or premeditated the result which ensued or acted in concert with others in order to bring about that result, that Section 34 may be applied.

For appreciating the ambit and scope of Section 34, the preceding Sections 32 and 33 have always to be kept in mind. Under Section 32 acts include illegal omissions. Section 33 defines the “act” to mean as well a series of acts as a single act and the word “omission” denotes as well a series of omissions as a single omission.

The distinction between a “common intention” and a “similar intention” which is real and substantial is also not to be lost sight of. The common intention implies a prearranged plan but in a given case it may develop on the spur of the moment in the course of the commission of the offence. Such common intention which developed on the spur of the moment is different from the similar intention actuated by a number of persons at the same time. The distinction between “common intention” and “similar intention” may be fine but is nonetheless a real one and if overlooked may lead to miscarriage of justice.

After referring to Mahbub Shah case, AIR 1945 PC 118 Apex Court in Mohan Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1963 SC 174 observed, it is now well settled that the common intention required by Section 34 is different from the same intention or similar intention. The persons having similar intention which is not the result of pre-concerted plan cannot be held guilty for the “criminal act” with the aid of Section 34.

Similarly the distinction of the words used in Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act “in reference to their common intention” and the words used in Section 34 “in furtherance of the common intention” is significant. Whereas Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with the actions done by conspirators in reference to the common object, Section 34 of the Code deals with persons having common intention to do a criminal act.”

The essential ingredients of the offence under Section 34 IPC are –

(i) That the criminal act was done by more than one person.

(ii) There must be a meeting of all the accused prior to the commission of the offence.

(iii) All the accused must have participated in the said meeting intended to commit the offences.

(iv) There must be common intention of offence.

(v) There must be participation in commission of offence.

(vi) Criminal act must have been committed in furtherance of their common intention.

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