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May 11, 2024

Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): What is criminal conspiracy?

This section outlines the legal definition of a criminal conspiracy in India.
• It states that when two or more people agree to do one of two things:
An illegal act (e.g., theft, robbery)
A legal act by illegal means (e.g., bribing someone to win a contract)
• This agreement itself constitutes a criminal conspiracy.
Key Points:
• The intention to commit a crime or use illegal methods is crucial.
• There’s no requirement for the crime to be actually committed, just the agreement to do it.
Important Exception:
There’s a crucial sub-section within Section 120A called the “mere agreement” clause. This clause clarifies that simply having an agreement isn’t enough for a criminal conspiracy charge.
• No agreement except an agreement to commit an offense shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act is done by one or more parties to the agreement in pursuance thereof (acting on the agreement).
In simpler terms:
Just because two or more people discuss or plan something illegal, it doesn’t automatically amount to a criminal conspiracy. There has to be some concrete action taken to put the agreement into motion.
Example:
• Two friends discuss robbing a bank (agreement). This alone wouldn’t be a criminal conspiracy.
• However, if they start buying masks and researching the bank’s layout (acting on the agreement), it might be considered a criminal conspiracy because they’ve moved beyond just talking.
Real-world Applications:
Section 120A is used in various criminal cases where planning and acting together play a role. Here are some examples:
• Gang activity often involves criminal conspiracies to commit crimes like theft or assault.
• Agreements to bribe officials or rig bids on contracts can be charged as criminal conspiracies.
Understanding this concept is important because it helps distinguish between planning a crime and actually carrying it out.
Case Law Examples:
• Parveen v. State of Haryana (2021): This case highlighted that merely planning or discussing a crime isn’t enough for a conspiracy charge. There must be some overt act towards executing the crime.
Case: Review Petition of Judgement on Criminal Conspiracy as Scheduled Offence under PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act)
• Date: November 29, 2023 (This is the most recent relevant case I could find)
Key Point: The Supreme Court dismissed a review petition challenging their judgement in November 2023. This judgement clarified that criminal conspiracy under Section 120A IPC is only considered a scheduled offence under the PMLA if the conspiracy is to commit one of the specific offences listed in the PMLA Schedule.
In simpler terms:
This case reinforces the distinction between a general criminal conspiracy and one that falls under the PMLA. Not all criminal conspiracies are automatically money laundering offences. There needs to be a connection to a specific crime listed under the PMLA Schedule


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