Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 34 IPC reads as under:
“34. 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.”
Ordinarily, a person is responsible for his own act. A person can also be vicariously responsible for the acts of others if he had the common intention to commit the offence.
The words “common intention” implies a pre-arranged plan and acting in concert pursuant to the plan. It must be proved that the criminal act was done in concert pursuant to the pre-arranged plan. Common intention comes into force prior to the commission of the act in point of time, which need not be a long gap.
Under this section a pre-concert in the sense of a distinct previous plan is not necessary to be proved. The common intention to bring about a particular result may well develop on the spot as between a number of persons, with reference to the facts of the case and circumstances of the situation.
Though common intention may develop on the spot, it must, however, be anterior in point of time to the commission of the crime showing a pre- arranged plan and prior concert. The common intention may develop in course of the fight but there must be clear and unimpeachable evidence to justify that inference.
This has been clearly laid down by Apex Court in the case of Amrik Singh v. State of Punjab 1972 CrLJ 465 (SC).
The essence of the liability is to be found in the existence of a common intention animating the accused leading to the doing of a criminal act in furtherance of such intention.
Undoubtedly, it is difficult to prove even the intention of an individual and, therefore, it is all the more difficult to show the common intention of a group of persons. Therefore, in order to find whether a person is guilty of common intention, it is absolutely necessary to carefully and critically examine the entire evidence on record. The common intention can be spelt out only from the evidence on record.
Section 34 is not a substantive offence. It is imperative that before a man can be held liable for acts done by another, under the provisions of this section, it must be established that there was common intention in the sense of a pre-arranged plan between the two and the person sought to be so held liable had participated in some manner in the act constituting the offence. Unless common intention and participation are both present, this section cannot apply.
Section 34 IPC is part of the original Code of 1860 as drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay, later known as Lord Macaulay. The original Section as it stood was as follows:
“When a criminal act is done by several persons, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act was done by him alone.”
However, on account of certain observations made by Sir Barnes Peacock C.J. in Queen v. Gora Chand Gope, (1866) 5 South WR (Cri) 45, it was necessary to bring about a change in the wordings of the section.
Accordingly, in the year 1870 an amendment was brought which introduced the following words after….. When a criminal act is done by several persons….. “…..in furtherance of the common intention….”
After this change, the section has not been changed or amended ever.
[The above discussion on Section 34 IPC extracted from a significant judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Virendra Singh Vs. State of M.P. dated August 09, 2010]