Case Law

The accused in Sulekha’s case are charged with three crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The three crimes are gang rape under § 376,[1] extortion under § 383,[2] and defamation under § 501.[3] Because all three of these offences were committed by a group of persons jointly some explanation is necessary as to the principles of vicarious liability under Indian law. Gang rape in particular explicitly requires that the participants form a common intention prior to the commission of the offense,[4] but all three offenses charged impute liability to each of the defendants jointly by virtue of their “common intention.” The phrase “common intention” is a term of art in the Indian Penal Code; it denotes a form of vicarious liability where each accused is “liable for that act … as if it were committed by him alone.”[5] This principle of vicarious liability does not create a substantive offense, but is a principle laid over a substantive offense jointly committed by two or more persons.[6]

[1] India Penal Code PC § 376(2)(g). [IPC]

[2] IPC § 383.

[3] IPC § 501.

[4] IPC § 376 Explanation 1.

[5] IPC § 34; Sewa Ram v. State of U.P. AIR 2008 SC 682; Sachin Jana v. State of West Bengal (2008) 3 SCC 390; Lala Ram v. State of Rajasthan (2007) 3 SCC (Cri) 634); see also Justice M.R. Mallick, Criminal Manual (Criminal Major Acts) Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), p. 8 (2009).

[6] Suresh v. State of U.P. AIR 2001 SC 1344: (2001) 3 SCC 673: 2001 Cr LJ 1462.


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