Split decision over conviction of accused for abetment when the charges of conspiracy under Section 120B IPC have failed

Supreme Court: The Bench of V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, JJ gave a split decision on the question as to whether a person can be convicted under Section 109 IPC for abetment if the charges of conspiracy under Section 120-B IPC fail.

As per V. Gopala Gowda, J, for Section 109 of IPC, it is not enough to show a conspiracy as it has to be taken a step further. He said that it needs to be proved that an act is committed in furtherance of that conspiracy. Once the charge under Section 120-B of IPC falls, in order to convict the accused under Section 302 read with Section 109 IPC, or Section 365 read with Section 109 IPC, what is needed to be established is the happening of some overt act on the part of the accused.

However, on the other hand, Arun Mishra, J disagreed with the abovementioned view and said that under section 109 IPC, the abettor is liable to the same punishment which may be inflicted on the principal offender if the act of the latter is committed in consequence of the abetment. The offence of conspiracy under section 120-B IPC is different. Section 120-A is bare agreement to commit an offence which has been made punishable under section 120B. The punishment for these two categories of crimes is also quite different. Section 109 IPC is concerned only with punishment of abetment for which no express provision has been made in the IPC. An offence of criminal conspiracy on the other hand is an independent offence which is made punishable under section 120-B IPC for which a charge under section 109 is unnecessary and inappropriate. He, hence, said that when charge under section 109 IPC has been found established, mere acquittal under section 120-B is of no avail to the accused. Charges which were framed were specific ingredients of section 109 IPC and the acquittal under section 120-B of IPC cannot help the accused as offences of both sections are separate. [Somasundaram v. State, 2016 SCC Online SC 1006, decided on 28.09.2016]

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