Common intention in Indian law

The main ingredients of “acts done by several people in furtherance of a common intention”[1] are twofold: (1) there must be a criminal act committed by more than one person, (2) each act cumulatively resulting in the in the commission of the criminal offense must be been in furtherance of the common intention.[2] The jurisprudence of the Indian Supreme court has revealed further principles that apply when seeking to prove a common intention.[3] The common intention refers here to the ultimate crime intended thus each person need not commit each act, or even know of the others’ actions, so long as the intention to commit the ultimate crime is commonly intended.[4]

The common intention or plan may be proved either from conduct, circumstances or from incriminating facts.[5] Because direct proof of such an agreement is often unavailable intention can be inferred from circumstantial evidence.[6] This agreement must necessarily occur prior to the commission of the crime, although it can arise on the spur of the moment.[7] Common intention is a state of mind and can be inferred objectively from his conduct as well as from prior or subsequent attendant circumstances.[8] However, mere participation in the crime is not sufficient to attribute common intention.[9] Finally although these principles are important in establishing common intention in cases such as the instant case, it is not necessary to cite § 34 to obtain a conviction if the ingredients are present.[10]


[1] India Penal Code § 34. [IPC]

[2] Id.; Mithu Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 2001 SC 1929: (2001) 4 SCC 193; Parasa Raja Manikyala Rao v. State of A.P. AIR 2004 SC 132; Girija Shankar v. State of U.P. AIR 2004 SC 1808.

[3] See Justice M.R. Mallick, Criminal Manual (Criminal Major Acts) Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), pp. 8-9 (2009).

[4] Nandu Rastogi alias Nandji Rastogi v. State of Bihar 2003 SCC (Cri) 177.

[5] Krishnan v. State AIR 2003 SC 2978: (2003) 7 SCC 56; Gopi Nath v. State of U.P. AIR 2001 SC 2493: (2001) 6 SCC 620.

[6] Justice M.R. Mallick, Criminal Manual (Criminal Major Acts) Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), p. 8 (2009).

[7] Id.; Lallan Rai v. State of Bihar AIR 2003 SC 333: 2003 SCC (Cri) 301.

[8] Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab 2002 SCC (Cri) 1518.

[9] Id.

[10] Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 2000 SC 2212: (2000) 4 SCC 603: 2000 SCC (Cri) 8555: 2000 Cr LJ 3462; see also Justice M.R. Mallick, Criminal Manual (Criminal Major Acts) Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), p. 9 (2009).

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