Section 34 IPC: Everything You Need to Know with LegalKart

Section 34 IPC: Everything You Need to Know with LegalKart

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LegalKart Editor
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Last Updated: May 18, 2024

 

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) serves as the foundation of criminal law in India. It meticulously outlines various offences and their corresponding punishments. Section 34 of the IPC plays a pivotal role in dealing with the concept of "common intention" during the commission of a crime. This blog post aims to understand Section 34 for a general audience, explaining its purpose, implications, and how it applies in everyday situations. Also, we wil discuss the role of professional legal advisors.

 

What is Section 34?

In accordance with the general rules of criminal culpability, the person or individual who committed the offence bears the primary responsibility. And only that individual can be held accountable and punished for the crime they committed. However, the IPC contains a number of clauses that deal with the concept of "common intent," which is a feature of criminal law cases around the globe. This doctrine allows a person to be held criminally liable for the crimes committed by a different person in the event that the act was committed in the context of a shared goal. One of the sections that fall under this refers to Section 34 of the IPC.

In contrast to this general norm, IPC 1860 section 34 provides that when criminal behavior is undertaken by a group of persons with a “common intention,” each of them is held liable for the crime as if it were committed by him alone.  This clause, which imposes the concept of joint culpability in an act, is a deviation from the fundamental principles of criminal law. The essence of joint culpability lies in the existence of a common motive for all parties involved that leads to the commission of criminal acts in pursuit of this common purpose.

 

Object of Section 34 IPC

The primary objective of Section 34 is to ensure that everyone who actively participates in a crime is held accountable, regardless of the specific act they perform. This ensures that all those who share the criminal intent and collaborate in its execution face legal consequences.

 

Nature of Section 34 IPC

Section 34 establishes the principle of "vicarious liability." This means that someone can be held criminally liable for an act they didn't directly commit but intended to be a part of. The law focuses on the "meeting of minds" between the participants – their shared criminal purpose and their actions in furtherance of that purpose.

 

Need for Section 34 IPC

Without Section 34, criminals could potentially escape punishment by meticulously dividing their roles during a crime. For instance, in the burglary example, Amit could argue that he was merely outside the shop, unaware of Rohan's intentions. Section 34 plugs this loophole, ensuring that everyone involved in the criminal plan faces justice.

 

Essentials Constituting Section 34 IPC

For Section 34 to apply, the following elements must be present:

Common Intention: There must be a pre-arranged plan or a meeting of minds between the accused individuals to commit a particular crime. A mere knowledge of the crime being committed wouldn't be enough. Here's an example: Rahul and Sonia are walking down the street when they see Maya snatching a purse from an old woman. Sonia doesn't participate in the act but observes. In this case, Sonia wouldn't be liable under Section 34 as she lacked a common intention with Maya.

Doing of an Act: At least one member of the group must perform an act that constitutes part of the offence. This act, however minor it may seem, must contribute to the overall criminal plan.

In furtherance of Common Intention: The individual act must contribute to the overall criminal plan. For instance, if Rohan (from the burglary example) had broken the window with the intention of entering the shop to retrieve a lost phone but then changed his mind, Amit wouldn't be liable under Section 34 because Rohan's act wasn't done in furtherance of their shared criminal plan.

The difference between shared intention and similar intentions

In order to use Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, all parties must share the same goal. The terms shared purpose and the same purpose might seem to be the same thing, but they are not.

 

A shared purpose is a planned plan that has been formulated or a an earlier meeting before making a decision. The expression "common" relates to doing everything that is owned by everyone at the same time. It is typical for them to have an aim, goal or purpose. However, the same objective isn't a common goal since it doesn't include an organized meeting or sharing.

 

Trial/ Court Procedure for a Section 34 IPC Case

A Section 34 case follows the standard criminal trial procedure. The prosecution must prove the essential elements mentioned above beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. Evidence can include witness testimonies, circumstantial evidence, call detail records (CDRs), and any statements made by the accused.

 

An appeal under Section 34 IPC

As with any criminal conviction, an appeal can be filed against a judgment under Section 34. The appellate court will review the evidence and the lower court's decision to determine if the conviction was justified.

 

Who is Liable under Section 34?

Anyone who actively participates in a criminal plan and contributes to its execution through their actions can be held liable under Section 34. This could include:

  • Those who directly assist in the crime, such as by providing getaway vehicles or tools.

  • Those who keep watch or act as lookouts during the crime.

  • Those who offer moral or psychological support encourage the commission of the crime.

 

What is the penalty for someone convicted under Section 34?

There is no separate section 34 IPC punishment. Instead, someone convicted under Section 34 will face the same penalty prescribed for the main offence under the relevant section of the IPC.

For example:

  • If the primary offence is theft (punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment), the person convicted under Section 34 (for their role in the robbery) would also face up to 3 years imprisonment.

  • If the primary offence is assault, the person convicted under Section 34 (for their role in the assault) could face a similar fine or imprisonment term of up to 3 years.

This ensures that everyone involved in the crime is held accountable to the same degree of severity as the person who directly committed the act.

 

How Can I Defend My Case Under Section 34?

If you are accused under Section 34, a lawyer can build your defence by challenging the prosecution's case on various aspects. Here are some potential defence strategies:

  • Lack of Common Intention: You may argue that you did not share the criminal intent of the others and were unaware of their plans. For instance, imagine you lend your car to a friend without knowing they intend to use it in a robbery. In this case, you could argue that you lacked a common intention with your friend and provided them with the car for a legitimate purpose.

  • No Act in Furtherance: You may claim your act did not contribute to the crime's execution. Let's say Kareena asks her friend Priyanka to hold her bag while she argues with a shop owner over a defective product. If Kareena then throws a punch at the shop owner, Priyanka wouldn't be liable under Section 34 because holding the bag wasn't an act in furtherance of the assault.

  • Mistake of Fact: You may argue that you made a genuine mistake about the facts of the situation. For example, if Rohan (from the burglary example) truly believed he was entering the shop to retrieve a lost phone, he could argue a mistake of fact regarding his reason for breaking the window.

  • Mistake of Law: In rare cases, you may argue that you mistakenly believed your actions were legal. It's important to note that this defence is difficult to establish, and legal advice should be sought in such situations.

 

Bail in a Section 34 IPC Case

Are you thinking 34 IPC is bailable or not? Granting bail in a Section 34 case depends on the severity of the main offence and the specific circumstances of the case. The court considers factors like:

  • The severity of the primary offence: If the main offence is a serious crime punishable by a life sentence, bail is less likely to be granted.

  • The accused's criminal history: A history of criminal activity may make the court less inclined to grant bail.

  • Flight risk: If the court fears the accused may flee the jurisdiction, bail might be denied.

  • Strength of the prosecution's case: A strong case against the accused may make bail less likely.

 

Important Caveats

It's crucial to remember that Section 34 applies only when there is a meeting of minds between the accused individuals and a shared criminal intent. Just being present at a crime scene does not make someone liable under Section 34.

 

Conclusion

Section 34 of the IPC plays a vital role in ensuring that all those involved in a crime are held accountable. By understanding its elements, implications, and potential defences, you can be better equipped to navigate the legal system if ever faced with such a situation. If you find yourself facing legal charges under Section 34, consult with a qualified lawyer from Legal Kart to discuss your specific case. Our experienced legal professionals are here for you 24x7 to take the worry out of your legal matters.

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