We live in the social world, and human beings are the most lovely as well as a dangerous creature living in this society. As every coin has two sides, similarly the human behaviour is categorized into criminal and non-criminal behaviours, and the law is an instrument to keep a check on that human behaviour.
The pre-requisite of any criminal mindset is mens rea, i.e., intention to cause harm to someone, then even the little act of buying the kerosene or petrol will be considered as a crime if it is bought to kill or burn someone. Hence, it, not the thing that sets the parameter of the crime, but the purpose for which such thing is bought makes any actus rea criminal offense.
Usually, a person can only be held liable for committing the offense, which he/she personally commits, but abetment and adding is one such exception to this. The scope of criminal law has widened by incorporating the abetment as it sought to penalize a person who does not personally commit the criminal offense by uses some other person to commit it.
In the payment term, the word “abet” means to aid/assist/help someone to commit an offense.The dictionary meaning of the terms “ abet” means to encourage or incite someone to commit a crime, aiding in the commission of the crime. However, concerning aiding and abetting, it includes the knowledge about the wrongful purpose of the preceptor and encourages/promote/counsel another person in the commission of the criminal offense.
In the case, Sanju v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court, held that the term “abet” means to aid, assist, command, procure, counsel to encourage another to commit the criminal offense. In another case, Kartar Singh v. the State of Punjab, the Supreme court further elaborated on the definition of “ abet.” It held that it is evident by the definition that for abetment, atleast two persons should be involved.
Chapter V Indian Penal Code 1860
This chapter provides for the abetment from section 107 to section 120. This is the first chapter within the Indian Penal Code that states that the mastermind behind the commission of any criminal offense should not be set free on the mere ground that it lacks actus rea by such person.
There are four stages of crime
- Human being: to commit any offense or to instigate someone to commit that offense, there should be a human being in or behind the picture doing it.
- Intension ( Mens Rea) and Knowledge: these are the two most essential elements that are required by any human being to commit a criminal offense. It is pre-requisite to note that even a simple act of buying the knife for household use tends to criminal act if any sort of criminal intent does the buying of such a knife. Hence, mens rea is the most crucial element of any criminal offense.
- Actus Rea: once the intention to commit any criminal act has been formed, then the next stage is the execution, i.e., commission of some criminal act in the pursuance of the criminal intent causing injury to some other person.
- Offense: Commission of an offense is the last stage, which is the result of any kind of criminal intention and criminal act, and it is punishable under law.
Now, the purpose of discussing these four stages is to highlight the fact that in the middle of the above four stages, abetment may take place, i.e., at the initial stage of planning where one person develops the intention. However, as a result of instigation, the act is committed by another person. Abetment is a substantive offense where the actual commission of an offense by the person who intended to do it is not required; instead, one is held liable for mere instigating, conspiring, and aiding others for the commission of the offense.
Section 107defines abetment, according to section 107, to abet means to instigate, to help, or to put into execution his criminal intentions. Section 107 lays down three acts which constitute abetment:
- Abetment by instigation: In laymen terms, it means motivating someone in two possible ways firstly, motivating someone for a good cause and secondly motivating someone for a wrong cause; the latter amounts to abetment by instigation. The person instigating someone is liable for committing the offense of abetment irrespective of the fact whether the act abetted is committed or not.
Hence, a person is said to commit abetment by instigation if he “instigate” the doing of the thing with by willful misrepresent or willful concealment of a material fact which he is bound todisclose.
Shiv is a public officer who is authorized by a warrant by the court to apprehend Ram. However, Sam, knowing the fact that Raman is not Ram willful, represents to Shiv that Raman is Ram and thus intentionally causes Shiv to apprehend Raman. Here Sam has committed the abetment by instigation.
- Abetment by Conspiracy: It means engaging with one or more persons in any conspiracy to commit an illegal act or omission in the pursuance of such conspiracy.
It is important to note that the particular act will only under the purview of this section if it is not covered under Section 120A of IPC.
- Abetment by aiding: It is the third kind of abetment that consists of intentionally aiding someone to commit any criminal offense either by aiding to commit an illegal act or illegal omission.
A person is said to aid the doing of an act, who, either before or at the time of the commission of an offense, does anything to facilitate or catalyze the commission of that act.
The mere act of giving food or clothing to an alleged offender is not an offense, nor is it punishable, but the act of giving food, clothing, and shelter so to assist him to hide from the police will constitute an offense of abetment by aiding and thus punishable.
The component of mens rea must be claimed to hold any person liable for the Abetment o proceed against him for the criminal offense under section 107. It is important to mark that mere negligence or carelessness cannot be termed as abetment under the provisions of penal laws. Hence “ deliberate” support or association, as well as an association, is the pre-requisite to claim any person as an abettor or to punish him for the offense under section 107.
In the case of Rajat Prasad v. CBI, the Supreme Court held that the mere fact that the benefit of an act done extends to the general public at large would not stand the wrongdoing crushed or exonerated. The court outlined that if an individual failed to prevent an offense from taking place then also he is subject to the inquiry so to find out this failure of prevention will constitute abetment or not; the Supreme Court added this rule in this particular case, will make the requirement of proofs essential element to determine the abettor as the accused cannot be hanged on the sole declaration of the person who is the primary observer or who could have prevented such ac from being committed.
A found on the fight scene with a spear on his hand; this proved his participation in the fight, so the fact whether he used the weapon or not is immaterial, and he will still be held liable if any injuries are caused to the defendant.
Mere abstention from preventing an offense is generally not sufficient to charge any person of abetment. However, if the person has direct control over the conduct of another person, then he fails to prevent that other person from committing the offense. Then, in such a scenario, he will be liable for abetment.
If I lent my car to one of my drunk friends and I am aware of the situation that he is is not in a condition to drive still I hand him my card, and he causes an accident then, in this case, I will hold liable for abetment as I could have prevented that act from being committed.
Section 108 – Abettor
According to the Section of 108 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, an abettor is a person, who abets either the commission of an offence or the commission of an act which would be an offence if it is committed by any person who is capable under the law of committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor.
The explanation of this section further elaborates that if the persons abet the illegal omission of the act, then also the person will be liable for the offense of the abetment even though the abettor may not himself bound to do that act. Similarly, to constitute the offense of the abetment its not necessary that the act abetted should be committed or that the effect requisite to constitute the offense should be caused, it will still be considered as an abetment is the abettor has a mens rea and does some actus rea towards its commission.
If A instigates B to murder C and B refuses to do so, then still A will be held guilty of abetting B to commit murder. Now, let take that under pursuance of such instigation B stabs C and C recovers from the wound. Then, also A will be liable for abetting B to murder C.
It is pertinent to note that the person who is being abetted should be capable by law of committing an offense, or he possesses the same guilty intention or knowledge as the one who is abetting him.
Let us take, for instance, A abetted B who is lunatic to murder C by putting poison into his food, here A will be still liable for the abetment to commit murder even though the murder has been committed or not.
In the case, Jamuna Singh v. the State of Bihar, the offense of abetment is completed when the alleged abettor has instigated another person to commit any criminal act or has conspired with another person to commit any criminal offense. To constitute the offense of abetment, it is not necessary that the act abetted must be committed.
In the case, Ram Kumar v. State of H.P, newly married 19-year-old girl and her husband were dragged down to the police station, where the head constable took the girl to a room, repeatedly beat her and after that raped her. At the same time, the other constable stood outside to keep watch and holding the helpless husband. In this case, the Supreme court held that the other constable standing outside had abetted the rape by his conduct, and he cannot be set free on the plea that he was just standing outside.
It means intentionally assisting the wrongdoer either by doing an act or by omitting to do so. It is important to note that mere intention to render assistance is not sufficient.
The pre-requisite/ elements of aiding are :
- Doing an act so to assist the commission of the crime directly; or
- The illegal omission of duty( one is bound to do); or
- Doing any activity that facilitates the commission of the crime.
To commit the abetment by aiding under section 107, there must be doing something with the knowledge so to facilitate the commission of the crime. That act of facilitation must be intentional.
Punishment for Abetment
The general perception of the people lies that only the perpetrators of the crime would be held liable for the offense of abetmentCodet Penal code and the laws of abetment imbibed provides for the different walks of the punishment for abetment.
Section 109: provides the punishment for the act, which is committed as the consequence of the abetment, and no express provision is provided for the punishment of such act committed.
According to this section, when the act abetted has been committed in the pursuance of abetment, and there is no express provision for punishment in the Code, then the person abetting shall be punished with the punishment provided for the offense.
For example: If A instigates B to give false testimony against C in the court and B in consequence of such instigation commits that act, then A is liable for the offense of abetment, and both A and B will be liable for the same punishment.
Now, let us take for example that A and B enter into an agreement and conspire to murder Z by giving him poison and in pursuance of such conspiracy, A buys poison from the market and delivers it to B. B administers into the drink of Z hence causing the death of Z. Here although A does not himself administer the poison to Z, he would be liable for the punishment of murder along with B.
Hence, the section explains if the Indian Penal Code has not accommodated an independent punishment for abetment, then the offense of abetment will be punishable with the discipline accommodated for the original offense.
Section 110: provides for the punishment of abetment is the person abetted does act with an intention that is different from the abettor.
It states that, if the person does an act in the pursuance of instigation or conspiracy or aiding with the different intention or knowledge from that of abettor, then also the abettor would be liable for the offense of abetment and will be punished with the same punishment as if its does in accordance to the intention or knowledge of abettor. Hence, the liability of the individual abetted isn’t influenced by this section.
Section 111: provides the liability of abettor when the act rather than the one abetted is committed.
It states that when a different act is done than one abetted, then abettor will be liable in the same manner and the same extent as if the original act abetted by him is committed.
Section 112: provides that if the act of abettor holds him liable under the last preceding section and in addition to it a distinct offense has been committed, then abettor will be liable to cumulative punishment for the act abetted and act done with separate punishment for each offense.
Section 113: provides for the liability of abettor for an act committed by the one abetted, causing different effects from that intended by the abettor.
It states that when a particular act is abetted with the intention of abettor of causing a particular effect but the after the commission the acts cause different effect than one intended, then also abettor will be liable for the abetment of that act as if it is caused with the same manner and intention, provided that he knows that the act abetted was likely to cause that effect.
Section 113 ought to be read together with Section 111, which accommodates the doing of the actus reus than the one abetted. On the other handhand, this section deals when the actus reus is the same, but its impact is not the one intended.
Section 114: provide that abettor will be punished for the commission of an offense by abetment as if he is himself present when the act abetted is committed.
Section 115: provide that whoever abets the commission of an offense punishable with death or life imprisonment and if the offense has not been committed, then the abettor will be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable for excellent.
However, if any action is done in the pursuance of such abetment causing hurt to any person, then in such case abettor will be liable with punishment fro the imprisonment, which may extend to 14 years and fine.
Section 116:: provide that whoever abets the commission of an offense punishable with imprisonment and offense is not committed then in such case abettor will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one-fourth part of the most extended term provided for that offense or fine or both.
Section 117, 118, 119 and 120.
Section 117 provides the abetting commission of the offense by the public or by more than ten persons; the abettor will be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to three years or fine or both.
Section 118 deals with the concealment of design to commit and offense punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Similarly, section 119 deals with the concealment of design by public servants, thus committing an offense which he must prevent and provides punishment for the same. Section 120 provides the punishment for the offense of concealment of design punishable with imprisonment.
Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code 1860
This chapter of the Indian penal code deals with Abetment to Suicide; it is an essential part of the offense of abetment.
Section 306 provides that if any person commits suicide, then whoever abetted the suicide shall be punished with imprisonment that may extend to 10 years or fine or both. However, the definition of abatement provided under section 306 must conform with that provided in section 107 of the IPC. In the case SangaraboniaSreenu v. State of Andhra Pradesh, it was held by the Supreme Court that Mens rea is a sin qua non for conviction under section 306, IPC. Merely, because the wife committed suicide in her matrimonial house is not sufficient to convict her husband and in-laws to convict them for abetment to suicide.
The laws of abetment have evolved and developed the criminal laws by punishing the offender who triggers from the back, not taking direct part in the commission of an offense but is the mastermind behind it. Such laws are necessary because no criminal must be left unpunished on the mere ground that he was not present at the crime scene.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What would be the cope of abetment if the instigation is done of the person living outside the territory of India?
Section 108 A IPC deals with the offense of Abetment in India of offenses outside India. By this section if any person abets an offense within the meaning of India and this abetment takes place in India, the person abetted is a foreigner and the commission of an act in the persuasion of such abetment takes place either within or outside the territory of India, then also the abettor is liable for the offense of abetment.
For example, Ravi lives in India, and he instigates Sam, who is native of Australia and tourists in Goa, to murder Raman. Also, Ravi will be liable for the offense of abetment. Here it is immaterial whether the offense is committed outside India or within the territory of India, as along as abettor is the citizen of India even if the commitment of murder took place in Australia it would be taken as if the offense is committed in India and Ravi would be held liable in the same way.
- What is the liability of an abettor when a different act is committed by the person abetted?
Section 111 uphold the liability of the abettor in the case when the person being instigated or conspired commits an act different from the one being abetted. However, the pre-requite of such liability is that there must be a probable consequence of such an act.
If A instigates B to burn the house of C and in consequence of such instigation, B sets fire to the house but also commits the theft of the property. In this, A will only be liable for abetment to burn the house and not for abetting the theft as the act of stealing is not a probable consequence of burning. However, if A instigates B, D, and E to commit robbery in the house of C and as a result along with robbery, D committed the murder of C’s daughter. In such a case, A will also be liable for the abetment of murder.
It is pertinent to note that the particular section of abetment law develops around the phrase “ each man is deemed to intent the corollary outcomes of his act.”
- How is section 34 of IPC different from section 114 of IPC?
Section 34 provides the acts committed by several persons in furtherance of common intention. It is important to note that there is an outstanding line between section 34 and section 114. According to section 34, a criminal act is done by several people, imbibing a common intention and with an objective of one common aim; in this case, each one of them is liable as they committed the act by himself alone.
For example: If A, B, C, and D enter into a universal agreement with a common intention to murder Z, then if only A, B, and C are present on the crime scene while the A kept a check on the door. In such cases, all four will be held liable for murder, and each one will be tried as the perpetrator of the crime. However, Section 114 alludes to the situation where an individual by abetment, before the commission of the wrongful act, renders himself obligated as an abettor, is present when the actus reus takes place, however, takes no active part in its doing.
(2002) 5 SCC 371
1994 Cri LJ 3319
Defines Criminal Conspiracy; which states that when two or more persons agree to do an illegal act or legal act by illegal means then such agreement between those person is know as criminal conspiracy.
 Explanation 2, Section 107 IPC, 1860
 2014 STPL (Web) 314 SC 1
 Explanation 1, Section 108 IPC, 1860
 Explanation 2, Section 108 IPC, 1860
Explanation 3, Section 108 IPC, 1860
 1967 AIR 553
 AIR 1995 SC 1965
 See FagunaKanta Nath v. State of Assam, AIR 1959 SC 673.
Explanation 1, Section 109 provides that an act is said to be committed in pursuance of abetment when it is Hence committed in consequence of instigation or in pursuance of conspiracy or aiding.
 Proviso provides that the act committed under section 111 must be a probable consequence of the abetment and committed under the influence of the instigation or aid or conspiracy.
 (1997) 4 Supreme 214
 See Channu v. State of Chattisgarh, 2017 SCC OnLineChh 1234
- Book: Ratan and Dheerajlal, Indian Penal Code