In general, criminal liability is a liability of the individual who commits the crime but it is not necessary that in every circumstance crime is committed individually. Many a time it is observed that big crimes like robbery and murder are done in groups. In such scenario, it becomes difficult to determine the liability of each member of the group. Common intention and common object are related to crimes which are committed by a group of people. Common object and common intention are envisaged in Section 149 and Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 respectively.
Common Intention –
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 in its Section 34 talks about joint liability. The concept of joint liability means that if a crime is committed by a group of people then each member is liable in the same way as if it is done by him individually. This section highlights for a joint liability to arise there should be a common intention behind the commission of crime. Section 34 reads as
“Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention – When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.”
Thus, the Supreme Court in Shyamal Ghosh v. State of Bengal aptly said that common intention is the pre-oriented plan and acting in pursuance to the plan. The offence of common intention has two essentials:
- The offence committed should be because of the common intention of the entire offenders.
- The offenders should be involved in any act which would be a part to the crime.
The Supreme Court in Jai Bhagwan v. State of Haryana, said for the application of common intention to an offence there should be more than one person committing the offence. The offence committed should be listed under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and there should be a common intention behind it.
In cases where premeditation cannot be observed, the mere fact that the two accused were spotted at the same place would not make them liable. If common intention is proved but no over act is attributed to be individual accused, Section 34 will be attracted as it involves vicarious liability.
Burden of Proof – The prosecution has to prove that there was more than one person involved with the offence and the offence was done with a common intention and with free consent of each offender.
Common Object –
The Section 149 under Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with offence that obstructs public order and harmony. It refers to those acts of the offenders that disturb the public peace and tranquility. Section 149 reads as:
“If an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the assembly, is guilty of that offence.”
Therefore, we can infer following as the essentials of Section 149:
- An unlawful assembly is mandatory as defined in Section 141 of the Indian Penal code, 1860.
- The criminal offence should be committed by any of the member of the unlawful assembly.
- The act done should be for the furtherance of the common objective of the assembly or an act which is likely to be committed in furtherance of the common object.
- The members of the assembly should have freely joined the assembly without any pressure and should also be familiar with the objective of the assembly.
- Intention is not integral in such cases, mere presence and knowledge of such common objective makes the person liable.
In Ramchandran v. State of Kerala, the apex court held that the common object could be formed at the spur of the moment and prior consent is not required unlawful assembling of members.
In Sheoram Singh v. State of U.P., the apex court decided that the common intention may develop immediately during the course of an occurrence, but still unless there is cogent evidence and clear proof of such common intention.
In the case of State of Maharashtra v, Joseph Mingel Koli, the high court held that it is well settled that once a membership of an unlawful assembly is established, the prosecution need not prove that the accused has been assigned with any overt act to be committed by him in order to accomplish the common object. Mere membership of the unlawful assembly is enough to be held liable for the offence committed in prosecution of the common objective.
Hence, we can say that common intent and common object are two distinct concept of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Common intention requires a pre-oriented plan or pre-supposed prior consent of the members but common intention does not require any such thing.
 Shyamal Ghosh v. State of Bengal AIR 2012 SC 3539
 Jai Bhagwan v. State of Haryana, AIR 1999 SC 1085
 Ramchandran v. State of Kerala AIR 2011 SC 3581
 Sheoram Singh v. State of U.P. AIR 1972 SC 2555
 State of Maharashtra v. Joseph Mingel Koli AIR 2011 SC 1379
This blog is written by Jaya Singh, Amity University.
Some of her blogs-
- MISCHIEF under Indian Penal Code
- Offences Relating To Election under IPC
- Bigamy and Cohabitation
- Unlawful Assembly & Rioting with Affray
- The doctrine of Double Jeopardy
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