Scope of Imposing Joint Liability under Indian Penal Code

Joint Liability

Under the Indian Penal Code, the provision regarding joint liability is given in section 34. Section 34 Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention- when a criminal act is done by several persons in furthers of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done but for him alone.

Section denotes the following points of Joint Liability:-

1. Any criminal act has been done.

2. It has been done by several persons.

3. The act has been done in furtherance of the common intention of all.

4. Each of such persons is liable for that act as if it were done by him alone.


A, B, and C agree to murder ‘X’ and kill ‘X’. Here all the three will be held liable jointly irrespective of the fact that the cause of death is the attack made by ‘A’.

Meaning of “Common Intention”- when several persons have the same intention or plan to result in an act, it is called common intention. Hence as per pre-arranged plan in furtherance to the same motto when an act is done, it is called “common intention”.

Gurudatt Mat v/s U.P. State, leading case related to common intention.

(1) “Pre-arranged plan’’:- when offence doer made pre-plan for causing any offence. It may be very earlier or just before causing an offensive act. M.A. Abdulla v/s Kerala state, AIR 1991 S.C.- Some persons were attacking upon a person where a friend of the accused was also standing. He also attacked the deceased with the sword but was caught by some persons, hence could not be attacked. Held he was also intended to cause the death of the deceased along with other accused. This comes under Joint Liability.

(2) “Meeting of mind “:- When criminals have pre-knowledge of offence and they have given pre- consent for offending.

State of U.P. V/S Ashok Kumar 1992Cr.L.J:

A lady was caused death by the burning body, her in-law was unhappy for not bringing sufficient dowry. Decided there were common intentions to cause the death of lady by burning. This comes under Joint Liability.

Essentials of section 54:-

  1. OFFENSIVE ACT- such an act should have to be punishable under law. For applicability of section 34, there must be at least two or more person. meaning thereby there must be a chain of acts. if in any offensive act only one action has been done, it can not be done by a person alone.
    Hema v/s Delhi Administration 1990 S.C. – Three persons were tried for the death of a person. The medical report says that death was caused by a knife. This comes under Joint Liability.
  2. OFFENSIVE WORK WAS DONE BY MANY PERSONS– Besides criminal act as per section 34 such act must be done by more than one person. Though section does not denote about the number of persons, it denotes the words “ several people”. Thus, there must be two or more persons as no one can be held liable for joint liability. Kishore Chand v/s state of Himachal Pradesh AIR 1991 S.C. –when two persons have resulted in two different offences, section 34 can not be applied.
  3. PERSONS CAUSING ACT SHOULD HAVE COMMON INTENTION– There must be same intention among the persons.
    Acts have been done in furtherance to common intention– Mere common intention is not a crime. There must be commission some acts in furtherance of common intention.
    Illustration- A, B, & D plan to cause the death of ‘M’ but they don’t do anything in furtherance to their plan. The element of common intention will not apply.
    Darbara Singh v/s State of Haryana –AIR 1992: Deceased was mowing grass in his field four persons attacked his with arms and killed. The trial court convicted under;
    Section 302/34- S.C. held that the accused and the deceased were the arch-rivals hence criminal intention is clear. There were 13 signs on the body of the deceased of different arms which made clear that at there were 3 accused who attacked accused. Gopinath v/s Jhullar v/s Uttar Pradesh 2001 S.C.
    Chittar Mal v/s State of Rajasthan AIR 2003 S.C.

It has been held that if the common intention of offenders is proved, the offenders will be held liable under section 302/34 irrespective of the fact of charge of section 302/149. Further, if any other offence, then the offence planned to do were committed, it would also be considered to charge with a similar intention.

For example, some persons went to the murder of ‘Y’, but by mistake, they murdered ‘R’ in place of ‘Y’ section 34 will be applied considering the common intention of the accused. This comes under Joint Liability.

Each of such persons is liable as if it were done by him alone.

When such pre-arranged plan i.e, to commit an offence is done by several persons, each of such persons shall be held liable and no one can take the plea that he has participated less in comparison to others.

Vasim Khan v/s UP AIR 19956 s.c.- held that it is immaterial that other offenders have been acquitted, one offender can also be held responsible.

Common intention & similar intention

Both are different from each other. In the matter of common intention, there must be a meeting of minds, but it is not necessary for the matter of similar intention.

Presence of accused at the spot of the incident- Section 34 can only be applied if the accused were present at the spot. It does not mean that he was standing at the spot, but he should have been in constant touch with his other accused colleague.

P.C. in the case of Virender Kumar v/s, Emperor AIR 1925 held that Virender Kumar was charged with the offence of murder of the postmaster along with the accused. Based on proof it was proved that when the incident of murder took place, Virender was not there in the room, but was standing near the car for giving information of any danger, hence he was guilty of murder.

S.C. in the case of Mubarak Ail v/s State of Bombay held that if the accused is in constant touch with a criminal act, he will be considered to be present at the spot of the incident though he was not physically present there at that time.

Actual contribution- No person would be held liable or convicted only on the ground that he was present at the spot of the incident.

Pappu v/s state 2001 s.c. – when there is doubt about the joining togetherness for committing the offence, the accused may be given the benefit of doubt. The appellant has given a blow to the deceased by the sword. The other two accused were given blow knives, The fourth accused was charged that he gave light to help the accused of making art to the deceased. The prosecution argued that since- fourth accused with prejudiced against the deceased hence he might have to join together with common intention, S.C. gave the benefit of doubt to the fourth accused and acquitted him.

Difference between common intention and same intention:

The basic difference between both is of ‘pre-arranged plan’:

ILLUSTRATION: ‘A’ and ‘B’ both intended to murder ‘C’. A thinks that during evening walk he will shoot ‘C’, ‘B’ also planned the same. ‘A’ and ‘B’ both neither met nor know the intention of each other. when ‘C’ was walking in the evening.’ A’ starts shooting and ‘B’ as well. Here ‘A’ and ‘B’ are having a similar intention, but not the common intention.

Mahboob Shah v/s Emperor 1945- This case is also known as the Indus River case. In this case sir Madhav Nair has elaborated the distinction between common intention and similar intention.

Forgery and common intention- In the offence of forgery, there is no element of common intention.

Conviction of one person

In the case of Jahangir v/s State of Punjab S.C. held that if reasonable out of the group of persons, some may be convicted while others may be acquitted.

Krishna Govind Patil v/s State AIR 1963 S.C. under section 34, only one can also be convicted. Karan Singh v/s state AIR 1966 CR.L.J- an Acquitted person may have common intention. Section 34 may also be applied in the case of dowry death. This comes under Joint Liability.

Section 34 may also be applied in a rape case.

Difference between “ common intention ” and “ common object”:

Common intention is given under section 34 and Common object under section 149.

Section 149- Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object- If an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence. This comes under Joint Liability.


Sikhar Behra v/s States of Orissa Cr.L.J. Two groups were fighting both were constituted unlawfully. Murders were committed fur fulfilling the common object of unlawful assembly.

Chittaraml v/s Rajasthan state AIR S.C. 2003- Both the section were related to liability and applicability to the person who has participated in the commission of any offence. Both the sections are similar to some extent, but with some basic differences overlapping the other.

law notes


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