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Common Intention Under Section 34 IPC And Court Judgments

Common Intention:

Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertains to the concept of common intention and outlines that when multiple individuals engage in a criminal act with a shared intention, each person is held accountable for the act as if they were solely responsible.

This principle can be explained through various scenarios:
  1. Robbery: For instance, if A, B, and C plan to rob a bank, with A carrying a weapon, while B and C act as lookouts. A threatens the cashier and steals money. Although only A directly committed the robbery, B and C are equally culpable under Section 34 as they all shared the common intention of committing the crime.
  2. Assault: In another case, if A and B get into a physical altercation with C, and both A and B start causing harm to C, they would both be guilty under Section 34, even if only one of them caused the fatal injury.
  3. Murder: A, B, and C plot to kill D. A shoots and kills D, while B and C assist by blocking potential escape routes. All three individuals are liable for murder under Section 34 as they all shared the common intention of causing D's death.
  4. Illegal Assembly: If a group of people gathers with the intention of causing public disorder and during the assembly, they start damaging public property, all individuals involved can be charged under Section 34 for the damage caused. This is because they all acted with a shared intention to commit the crime.

In all these situations, even if only one person directly committed the criminal act, the others are equally responsible as they acted with a common intention. This principle serves to hold all individuals involved in a crime accountable for their collective actions.

Court Judgments:
  • The landmark case of Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. King Emperor (1925) is a significant judgment on the concept of common intention. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that in order for Section 34 to be applicable, the presence of a common intention is crucial, and it is not necessary for all the accused to have committed exactly similar or identical acts.
  • The Division Bench of the Hon´┐Żble Supreme Court, comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal, clarified in the case of Ram Naresh v. State of UP that for Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code to be invoked, there must be a shared purpose among all the co-accused. The Court also emphasized that explicit discussions or agreements among the co-accused are not mandatory for the establishment of common intention. It is possible for common intention to arise just before the commission of the offence by the accused.
  • In the 2019 case of Babulal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court restated that common intention can be deduced from the behaviour of the accused and the circumstances of the case. It stressed that while a common intention must exist, it is not required for all accused individuals to commit the same overt act.
  • In the 2006 case of State of Rajasthan v. Kashi Ram, it was observed that to establish common intention, the prosecution must prove the existence of a pre-arranged plan and a mutual understanding to commit the criminal act. Simply being present at the scene of the crime is insufficient to infer common intention.
  • In the 1964 case of Ram Bilas Singh v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court ruled that while common intention must be shared by all the accused, it is not necessary for each one to actively participate in the commission of the crime. As long as there is a shared intention and each accused plays a role in furtherance of that intention, liability under Section 34 can be established.
  • In the 2011 case of Ramesh Harijan v. State of U.P., the Supreme Court emphasized that the common intention must exist before the commission of the criminal act and not just develop during its commission. The court also reiterated that Section 34 does not create a separate offence, but only provides for vicarious liability.
  • In the case of Hari Om v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was held that there is no requirement for a prior conspiracy or premeditation; the common intention can also be formed during the occurrence itself.

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