ABETMENT (INDIAN PENAL CODE,1860)
BY PRANSHU SINHA
Under the Penal Code a person becomes liable as an abettor if he instigates another to commit a crime, or engages in a conspiracy with another to commit a crime and some act is done in furtherance of such conspiracy or if he intentionally aids another in order to facilitate the commission of a crime. The term ‘abet’ in general usage means to assist, advance, aid, conduce, help and promote. In Kartar Singh v/s State of Punjab Supreme Court has word ‘abet’ has been defined as “meaning to aid; to assist or to give aid; to command, to procure, or to counsel; to countenance; to encourage; induce, or assist, to encourage or to set another one to commit.”
Chapter V of the IPC talks about ‘Abetment’ and provides the relevant laws covering the responsibility of all those considered in law to have abetted the commission of offence.
Section 107 of IPC which defines abetment generally, defines three kinds of abetment, or as they are referred to ‘Ingredients of an amendment’ viz.,
[Sec. 107(1)] – Abetment by Instigation i.e. by instigating a person to commit an offence; or
Abetment by conspiracy [Sec. 107(2)] – by engaging in a conspiracy to commit an offence; or
Abetment by aid [Sec. 107(3) – by intentionally aiding a person to commit an offence.
Section 108 of Indian penal code defines who an abettor is.
For an act to be regarded as abetment it is not necessary that the offence abetted must occur or an illegal omission of an act even if the abettor was not himself bound to do the act.
- Andy instigates Sam to murder Charlie. Sam refuses to do so. Andy is guilty of abetting Sam t o commit murder.
- Raj instigates Shyam to murder Balram. Shyam in pursuance of the instigation stabs Balram but he recovers from the wound. Raj is guilty of instigating Shyam to commit murder.
- P and Q conspire to poison Z. P, in pursuance of the conspiracy, procures the poison and delivers it to Q in order that he may administer it to Z. Q, in pursuance of the conspiracy administers the poison to Z in P’s absence and thereby causes Z’s death. Here Q is guilty of murder. P is guilty of abetting that offence by conspiracy, and is liable to the punishment for murder.
It is not necessary that the person who is abetted to commit a crime has knowledge or is capable by law to commit that crime or shares the same guilty purpose/knowledge thereof. Therefore if a person abets a minor or a mentally unstable person to commit a crime, the abettor would be responsible for the offence under this section even if the crime has not been committed.
Relevant case laws on Abetment
In Jamuna Singh v. State of Bihar
This was a case of abetment of fabrication of false evidence. Accused pleaded that the fabrication had not taken place and hence he was not guilty.
Court held that the offence of abetment is complete when the alleged abettor has instigated another or engaged with another in a conspiracy to commit the offence. It is not necessary for the offence of abetment that the act abetted must be committed.
In Saju v. State of Kerala
A young woman, Jameela, was found killed. At the time of her death, the deceased was in advance stage of pregnancy. Upon trial the two accused were found guilty of the offences of murder and abetment. The Supreme court held that there is no direct evidence either regarding abetment or the criminal conspiracy attributable to the appellant. Both the offences are held to be proved on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The court further held that to prove the charge of abetment, the prosecution is required to prove that the abettor had instigated for the doing of a particular thing or engaged with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing or intentionally aided by an act of illegal omission, doing of that thing. The prosecution failed to prove the existence of any of the ingredients of S. 107 IPC.
In Ram Kumar v. State of HP
The Supreme Court considered the case of a constable who dragged a young newly married 19-year-old girl and her husband from the latter’s brother’s house. In the police station, the head constable took the girl to a room, repeatedly beat her and committed rape on her, while the other constable kept watch in outside holding the hapless husband, who was helplessly hearing the frantic screams of his wife. The Supreme Court held that the constable by his conduct had abetted rape and therefore, did not merit acquittal.
Sanjay Singh Sengar v. State of Madhya Pradesh
In this case the prosecution alleged that the appellant told the deceased ‘to go and die’ and hence is liable for the offence of abetment. Supreme Court held that uttering such phrases in anger itself does not constitute the ingredient of ‘instigation’. The word ‘instigate’ denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or unadvisable action or to stimulate or incite. Presence of mens rea, therefore, is the necessary concomitant of instigation. It is common knowledge that the word uttered in a quarrel or in a spur of the moment cannot be taken to be uttered with mens rea. It is in a fit of anger and emotional. Hence the accused would not be guilty.
PUNISHMENT FOR ABETMENT
Sections 109 to 120 of the Indian Penal Code prescribe certain rules as to punishment for different kinds of abetment. Sections 109 and 110 prescribe punishment of abetment, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of abetment, whereas S. 115 and 116 provide for punishment where the offence is not committed in consequence of the abetment. Sections 109 and 110 provide
for punishment in cases in which the act done is the act abetted.
- 111 holds the abettor liable when the act done is different from the act abetted by him/her. This section enunciates the principle of constructive liability. An interesting provision in relation to abetment is the provision for the punishment of a special kind of abetment – abetment of concealment of a design to commit a crime. If a person knowing of a design to commit a crime and intending to facilitate the commission thereof voluntarily conceals such a design, he is liable to punishment. (S. 118-120 of IPC).
As we can see this particular chapter (chapter 5) of IPC, deals with and provides for people who are not directly involved in commission of a crime but are very much responsible for its occurrence. A person when angry/scared/nervous is in an unstable state of mind and cannot think clearly. This is a crucial time for that person and any sort of advise or help or a ‘remedy’ that is given to him during that period would be immediately implemented by him without thinking of its’ consequences. Here the advisor or the person who sowed the seeds of such a crime in the perpetrator’s head is also equally responsible for the crime since had he not been there chances are that the particular offence would never have been committed, hence the abettor here should definitely be punished. This is a just and fair law enhancing the principles of natural justice in the judicial system.
Pranshu Sinha is an avid researcher & writer and is currently the 3rd year Law student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow.