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Criminal Conspiracy is a term used in the legal system to describe an agreement between two or more individuals to commit an unlawful act or to achieve an illegal objective. In Pakistan, the provisions related to Criminal Conspiracy are primarily outlined in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Section 120-A of the Pakistan Penal Code defines Criminal Conspiracy. It states:
“Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offense punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offense.”
According to this provision, if two or more persons agree to commit an offense that is punishable by death, life imprisonment, or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or more, and if there is no specific provision in the code for the punishment of that particular conspiracy, then the individuals involved in the conspiracy will be punished as if they had abetted the offense itself.
It’s important to note that in addition to the offense of Criminal Conspiracy, individuals involved in the conspiracy can also be charged with the specific offense they conspired to commit, as well as any other offenses committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.
DEFINITIONS OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY:
Here are definitions provided by famous jurists and law dictionaries:
Black’s Law Dictionary :
“Criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or to accomplish a legal purpose by illegal means. The crime of conspiracy requires an agreement, an intent to agree, and an intent to commit the underlying offense.”
William Blackstone (English jurist):
“Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means.”
Roscoe Pound (American jurist):
“Conspiracy is a combination of two or more persons by some concerted action to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose not in itself criminal or unlawful by criminal or unlawful means.”
Salmond on Jurisprudence:
“A criminal conspiracy consists in an agreement between two or more persons to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means.”
Halsbury’s Laws of England (Legal encyclopaedia):
“A conspiracy consists not merely in the intention of two or more, but in the agreement of two or more, to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means.”
Ingredients of Criminal Conspiracy:
The ingredients of Section 120-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) are the essential elements that must be present to establish the offense of Criminal Conspiracy. To prove the offense under this section, the following ingredients must be fulfilled:
The first essential ingredient is that there must be an agreement between two or more persons. This agreement can be explicit or implicit, and it implies a meeting of minds or a common understanding between the individuals involved.
- Criminal Object:
The agreement must be for the purpose of committing an offense. The offense contemplated in the agreement must be one that is punishable with death, life imprisonment, or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or more.
Each person involved in the conspiracy must be a party to the agreement. They must actively participate in the planning, organization, or execution of the criminal object. Mere knowledge or passive acquiescence is not sufficient to establish participation.
- Absence of Express Provision:
If the offense that is the subject of the conspiracy has an express provision for punishment in the Pakistan Penal Code, then Section 120-A may not be applicable. The section comes into play when there is no specific provision for the punishment of that particular conspiracy.
It is important to note that the offense of Criminal Conspiracy is distinct from the actual commission of the crime. Even if the intended offense does not materialize, the conspiracy itself is punishable under Section 120-A.
Legal Act by Illegal Means:
When two or more persons agree to do an act, which is not illegal itself, may be guilty of criminal conspiracy u/sec 120-A when they agree to do or cause to be done that act by illegal means.
Example: Person “A”, “B” and “C” agree to sell car without paying custom duty on it. They are guilty u/sec 120-A.
Agreement To Commit An Offence And Agreement Which Is Illegal But Not Constitute An Offence:
The proviso to section 120-A draws a distinction between an agreement to commit an offence and an agreement of which either the object or the methods employed are illegal but do not constitute an offence. In the case of former, the criminal conspiracy is completed by the act of agreement; in the case of the latter, there must be some act done by one or more of the parties to the agreement to effect thereof.
Proof of Criminal Conspiracy:
Conspiracy may be established by direct or indirect evidence such as circumstantial evidence. Evidence need to be considered together and its cumulative effect to be weighed and given effect. According to article 23 of Q.S.O, 1984, The act done by one is admissible against the co-conspirators.
PUNISHMENT U/SEC 120-B:
- Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall where no express provision is made in the code for the punishment of such conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted offence.
- Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months or with fine or with both.
Conspiracy To Commit Offences Punishable By Section 121-A:
Whoever within or without Pakistan conspires to:
- Commit any of the offence punishable by sec 121 i.e. Waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Pakistan, or
- Deprive Pakistan of the Sovereignty of her territories or any part thereof, or
- Overawe (something more than mere apprehension. It is a situation where one feels to choose between yielding to force or exposing to serious danger) the federal Govt. or any Provincial Govt. by means of criminal force or show of it. He shall be punished with Imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY AND ABETMENT
Here’s an explanation highlighting the key differences between criminal conspiracy and abetment:
|Definition||Criminal conspiracy involves an agreement between two or more individuals to commit an unlawful act or achieve an illegal objective.||Abetment refers to intentionally aiding, instigating, or encouraging the commission of a crime by another person.|
|Focus on Agreement||The focus in criminal conspiracy is on the agreement or understanding between the individuals involved. It emphasizes the joint effort and planning to commit the offense.||Abetment focuses on the act of actively aiding, instigating, or encouraging the commission of the offense. It does not necessarily require a prior agreement.|
|Degree of Participation||In criminal conspiracy, each individual involved actively participates in the planning, organization, or execution of the criminal act. They are considered parties to the agreement.||In abetment, an individual aids, instigates, or encourages another person to commit the offense. They may not be directly involved in the execution of the crime but play a supportive role.|
|Punishment||The punishment for criminal conspiracy depends on the punishment prescribed for the underlying offense that is the subject of the conspiracy. If there is no specific provision for the punishment of the conspiracy, individuals involved are punished as if they had abetted the offense itself.||The punishment for abetment varies depending on the nature and gravity of the offense committed. It is usually a lesser punishment compared to the offense itself.|