Indian Penal Code on Criminal Conspiracy

A criminal conspiracy arises when two or more people want to perform an illegal act or when two or more people agree to accomplish something illegal through illicit means. In other terms, criminal conspiracy is a criminal collaboration.


Criminal conspiracy is defined under Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code. According to S. 120-A, a criminal conspiracy has the following elements:

  • An agreement between two or more people should exist;
  • The agreement must be to do or cause to get done:
    • an unlawful act, or
    • an act that is not illegal but accomplished through unlawful methods.

The provision further states that a distinction has to be made between the following:

  • An agreement to commit an offence and
  • An agreement whose aim or methods are illegal but do not constitute an offence.

There is no overt act requirement in the former situation because a simple agreement constitutes a crime. By contrast, in the latter case, one or more participants to such an agreement must perform an overt act in addition to the agreement.


Two or more persons or parties must agree on the following:

There must be an agreement to conduct an offence to establish the allegation of conspiracy. However, there is no requirement for the proof of a direct encounter or bringing the parties together in each other’s presence.

The agreement can be deduced based on the facts of the case. It is important to note that a criminal plan that exists only in one’s mind or intention does not constitute a conspiracy.

The same is true even if issues are discussed and viewpoints are exchanged. Still, when two or more conspirators do not settle on a plan of action, the discussions cannot be labelled criminal conspiracy.

Only when the two agree to carry out the scheme by illegal methods, the action is labelled criminal conspiracy. The mere agreement to conduct an unlawful act is not sufficient to prosecute the individual. The act need not to be carried out.

If each party’s conduct, promise against promise, actus contra actum, becomes punishable for a criminal aim, then it is not essential for each member of the conspiracy to be aware of all of specifics

Illegal Act, Illegal Means, Overt Act

Because these expressions appear in the definition, they should be explained in context:

Illegal Act:

To be charged with criminal conspiracy, the agreement must accomplish something illegal under the law. A contract that is immoral, against public policy, or otherwise of a nature that the courts will not enforce is not necessarily unlawful. However, under terms of definition, an agreement to commit illegal conduct, even if it is not criminal, may be considered criminal conspiracy.

Illegal Means

Conspiracy is defined as an agreement to commit a lawful act through the use of illegal means. The end does not justify the means.

Overt Act

An overt act, as in contrast to a mere intention to commit a crime, can be proven by evidence and inferred from criminal intent. Even if the act is innocuous in and of itself, it can be used as evidence against conspirators during a trial to show involvement in a crime.


Criminal conspiracy is punishable under Section 120-B of the IPC. The clause states that anybody who is a part of a criminal conspiracy is punishable by law as follows:

Life imprisonment, death, life imprisonment, or a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or more years is imposed in the same manner as if the individual aided and abetted the crime.

However, when there is no specific provision in the law for the penalty of a conspiracy to commit an infraction, this section about serious offences is applicable.

The second half of this clause states that any person party to any other conspiracy shall be penalised with 6 months of imprisonment, a fine, or both.


Indira Gandhi Assassination case.


  • An army operation known as Operation Blue Star took place in June 1984 under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi, erstwhile Prime Minister of India. Armed troops invaded the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar and cleaned out terrorists hiding.
  • The terrorists concealed there belonged to Khalistan, a group of ultra-radicalized Sikhs who sought a separate homeland for Sikhs.
    All of the militants were killed in operation, resulting in numerous lives and property loss. It also damaged the Akal Takht in the Golden Temple Complex, which outraged Sikh religious sensitivities. The disgruntled Sikhs publicly expressed their displeasure with Indira Gandhi and protested against her.
  • Indira Gandhi went outside her residence at 9:10 a.m. on October 31st. Head Constable Narayan Singh, Rameshwar Dayal, Assistant Sub Inspector Nathuram, Attendant, and R.K. Dhawan, Special Assistant, accompanied her. These persons were linked to Mrs Gandhi in some way.
  • To achieve their shared goal, accused Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, who were aware of Mrs Gandhi’s planned timetable, arranged their tasks so that Beant Singh would be present at the TMC gate and Satwant Singh would be in the TMC booth.
  • When Indira Gandhi and the other individuals mentioned above passed beside the TMC gate, the accused Beant Singh, prepared with a loaded armed gun, fired five rounds. Satwant Singh fired twenty-five bullets on Mrs Gandhi, causing her to fall flat on the ground and get rushed to AIIMS, where she succumbed to her injuries.

Facts according to the post mortem reports

  • The cause of death was disclosed on October 31st, with post mortem findings indicating that Mrs Indira Gandhi died due to shock and haemorrhage caused by the many gunshots fired into her body. Under normal conditions, this is a sufficient reason to cause a person’s death.
  • It also claimed that the conspiracy included more than just these two people. It was a cold-blooded assassination with a well-thought-out purpose.
  • Balwant Singh, who was known to hold many demonstrations and protests against Mrs Gandhi and had displayed open anger against her on several occasions for ‘Operation Bluestar,’ was also accused of being a part of this plan. It also claimed that he was a part of the scheme and shared his plans to kill Mrs Gandhi with Beant Singh.
  • Kehar Singh, a religious bigot and fanatic, was also accused of being a part of this scheme. He was a zealot by temperament. He, too, had deep resentment and was enraged by Operation Bluestar, which damaged Akal Takht in Amritsar’s Golden Temple Complex.
  • He was claimed to have influenced his nephew, Beant Singh, by pushing him to listen to inflammatory, hatred-filled religious lectures during the ‘Amrit Chakna Ceremony’ at a Gurudwara in R.K. Puram, Delhi. On October 20, 1984. He also accompanied Beant Singh to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Later, Beant Singh’s ‘Kara’ and ‘Ring’ were discovered at Kehar Singh’s residence.
  • Beant Singh died on the scene as a result of his injuries. Balwant Singh, Satwant Singh, and Kehar Singh were all prosecuted under Sections 120b, 109, 34, and 302 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. In addition, they were prosecuted under Section 27 of the Arms Act of 1959.


  • After hearing both appeals, the court issued an acquittal decision for Balwant Singh because of the absence of proof or evidence against him. The prosecution failed to establish proof that Balwant Singh intended to assassinate Mrs Gandhi, and no evidence revealed that he was involved in the plan.
  • The Trial Court and the High Court findings under Section 302 of the IPC related to 120B and 34 of the IPC were established beyond a reasonable doubt against Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh. Because this is one of the rarest rare occurrences, all defendants were sentenced to death.


Criminal conspiracy IPC is an exception to the usual rule that both mens rea and actus reus must be present to commit a crime. In such a case, simply having a guilty mind is sufficient to declare a person guilty if there was an agreement to perform an illegal act.

However, if the agreement’s objective was to perform a legal act through illegal methods, an act, or actus reus, is required again. Using both direct and circumstantial evidence, the criminal conspiracy can be deduced from the surrounding circumstances and the behaviour of the suspected or accused individual.

Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, punishes a person of being guilty of criminal conspiracy.

This Code provision is gradually losing its meaning, and there is a need to guarantee that due vigilance is maintained in criminal conspiracy instances. The well-established concept of criminal law, ‘the fouler the crime, the more the proof necessary’, must be remembered, and the purity of the law must be maintained.


What is under Section 120B?

Where there is no express provision for the punishment of such a conspiracy, anybody who is a part of a criminal conspiracy to commit an act punishable by death or imprisonment for two years or more is punished in the same way as if he had assisted such offence.

Is an offence committed under section 120B IPC bailable or not?

For an offence to be bailable depends on the nature of the offence for which criminal conspiracy was committed.

What is the meaning of the term ‘illegal’?

According to Section 43 of the IPC,[3] the term "illegal" means:

  • An offence
  • Forbidden by the law
  • Provides ground for civil liability

What is the difference between Section 120A & 107?

In Section 120-a, there is an act of preparing to conduct an illegal act, but in section 107, there is no act, but there was an instigation to commit an offence or offer assistance to an instigated person.

Criminal Law