In criminal jurisprudence, the crime can be committed by a single person or with the help of two or more persons. In case several persons are related to a particular crime, it is very essential to know the degree of participation of each in the said offence. It is possible that some of them will involve directly whereas a few are indirectly related by way of instigation, assistance and cooperation that enable others to commit the crime. Our Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) provides for a specific offence for those who intentionally instigate or lend their support in the commission of the crime. This offence is popularly known as an Abetment.
In this article, we will explore the meaning of Abetment, its types, essential ingredients involved and lastly the punishment for this offence prescribed in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Meaning of Abetment
The term ‘abet’ means to assist, encourage or provoke someone to commit a wrong thing. Thus, the simple meaning of Abetmentis to help someone in the commission of an offence. Abetment is not solely related to the actual offence but the abetment is a separate offence in itself and the punishment has been provided for it.
The chapter V of the Indian penal code, 1860 deals with the provisions of Abetment and provides for their liability with a suitable punishment. The definition of Abetment is mentioned under Section 107 of the IPC which mainly involve 3 ingredients-
Firstly: To Instigates any person to do that thing
Secondly: To engage with one or more people in entering a conspiracy for the doing of that thing.
Thirdly: To Intentionally assist any person by way of any act or illegal omission in the doing of that thing.
Major Element of Abetment: Mens Rea
The core element for constituting the offence of Abetment is the “Mens Rea” of the person. The term “mens rea” means the guilty intention to do an act. Thus, it is essential that the person shall have deliberate intention while instigating or supporting the main accused to do the act. The Abetment can be assessed from facts to facts basis and it is mainly ascertained by the conduct of the person. It is essential to note that mere negligence or carelessness in the facilitation of a crime cannot make a person guilty under Section 107 of the IPC.
Further, the mere involvement of a person in the happening of an event doesn’t fulfil the requirement of Abetment. The person shall necessarily have a guilty state of mind while doing the entire scheme of things. Under the offence of Abetment, the mens rea is an important element than actus reus (actual conduct) to accuse the guilty.
In Pramod Shriram Telgote v. the State of Maharashtra, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the explicit “mens rea” to do the offence is a sine qua non (the most essential thing) for doing conviction under Section 107 of the IPC”.
The landmark case law related to it is the case of Sanju vs the State of M.P –
In this case, there was a bitter quarrel between husband and wife. The husband in anger said to her wife go and die. The wife committed suicide after 2 days. The court held that the husband doesn’t have the required mens -ria for the offence. Thus, he is not liable for the offence of abetment.
Type of Abetment
There are generally 3 types of Abetment
1). Abetment by instigation
2). Abetment by conspiracy
3). Abetment by intentional aiding.
Abetment by instigation
The literal meaning of the term Instigation is to incite, provoke or encourage someone in the commission of an offence. This definition is quite subjective and the court needs to look at the facts of the case to figure out the element of instigation. The word said in a state of anger or during a heated conversation with no such intention of the subsequent offence doesn’t fall within the scope of Instigation. It is very essential that during instigation, the abettor must have full knowledge of the committed offence.
It is also equally noted that if a person deliberately tries to conceal important information or by his fraudulent conduct tries to gain a thing, then he is also liable for the offence of instigation.
For example. There is a search warrant in the name of B. The police came there but C deliberately presented himself as B. Then he is liable for the offence of instigation.
The silent approval of an offence also falls in the definition of abetment. A large number of dowry death cases fall under this. For example. A wife goes for Sati. The people surrounding her didn’t say a word and let the event occur. They were liable for abetment to suicide.
Abetment by conspiracy
The 2nd element of abetment is through conspiracy. For constituting it there shall necessarily be three things
1). A conspiracy between two or more persons;
2). An act or illegal omission must take place in pursuance of that conspiracy;
3) Such an act or illegal omission must also take place while doing the conspired thing.
For example, A, a servant, makes a conspiracy with some thieves to do the robbery. The servant while facilitating the act needs to keep the doors of the master’s house open in the night so that the thieves can commit the offence. A, as per the agreed plan keeps the doors open and the thieves take away the master’s valuable property. Now, in this case, A is guilty of abetment by conspiracy.
Abetment by intentional aiding
For constituting this offence, the person shall facilitate the commission of the offence through his conduct or by providing necessary help in any other manner. As per explanation 2 of section 107, the support or facilitation can be given prior to or at the time of the commission of an act. It is essential to highlight that the Aid may be given by an act or by illegal omission.
Aid by Act
For example, A instigates B to commit suicide and C puts poison in the hand of B. Here A and C both are abettors. A is liable by instigation and C by intentional aiding.
Aid by illegal omission
For example, a policeman has a legal duty to interfere if an offence is being committed in front of him. If he remains a silent spectator on this, then he will be liable as himself to encourage the commission of the offence.
Who is an Abettor ??
The definition of the term Abettor is mentioned in Section 108 of the Code. According to this Section, an abettor is a person who abets the commission of such a wrongful act that will be deemed as an offence in the eyes of law An abettor can be an instigator, or a conspirator, or helper in the commission of a crime as defined in section 107.
It is important that the Abetment shall necessarily be for the commission of a legal offence. For example. A instigate B to run away all the street dogs from the city. B did the same. This is not an offence of Abetment as running away the street dogs is not a legal offence.
The exclusive scope and clear interpretation of the term Abettor is mentioned in 5 explanations of Section 108 which includes –
- Abetment of illegal omission – This states that the person may be held liable for abating a person for an act which he is legally required to do and the abettor is legally exempted for it.
For example, a police constable will be guilty of an illegal omission of his duty by not interfering in a fight whereas a private individual cannot be held guilty of such offence.
- The effect of Abetment is immaterial.
As per this explanation, it is not necessary that the act abetted must give the intended effect or result. For example. An instigated B to kill M by way of stabbing. B did so but M recovered as the wound was not sufficient to cause death. Now, A is guilty to abet B for committing the murder.
- A person abetted need not necessarily be capable of committing the offence.
It is not necessary that the person abetted must be capable in the eyes of the law to commit offence. For example, a person can employ a child below the age of seven years to commit the offence. In this case, the child is not punishable as he is exempted under section 82 of IPC and would be treated as an innocent, where the person that directs him to do the act would be liable as an abettor.
- Abetment of Abetment is an offence.
Sometimes, there is a series of abetments that led to the commission of the offence. In that case, all the people will be held equally liable for the same. For example, X instigates Y to murder M. Y again instigated Z to kill M. In the influence of Instigation, Z does so and M was murdered in the end. Now, X and Y are equally liable for the offence of Abetment.
- Engagement in the conspiracy on account of which the offence is committed is enough to make him liable as an abettor.
For example. Ram makes a plan with Mohan to kill Raju. It was decided that Ram will give the poison. Mohan explains the plan to Ravi who arranges the poison and delivers it to Mohan. Ram gave the poison and Raju dies in consequence. Here, Ravi has committed the offence although he did not conspire with Ram he engaged himself in the conspiracy to kill Raju.
Punishment for abetment
The extent of liability of an abettor is mainly dependent on the following four factors:
- which act he had abetted
- With what intention he abetted
- which act was committed
- With what intention the act was committed
The punishment for Abetment is specifically dealt with in Section 109 to 120 of the IPC.
Scope of Section 109
This section states that if there is no separate punishment of abetment provided in the Indian Penal code as such, then this offence is punishable with the same punishment as provided for the original offence.
Section 110 of IPC
This section comes into play when the intention of an abettor and the person abetted does an act that has different intentions from each other. As per this, the abettor will be punished with the abetted offence irrespective of the intention.
For example, A instigated B to cause grievous injury to M for preventing him from taking part in a racing competition. Now, B filled with deep anger tries to kill him and in this process inflict injury to M. Now A will be liable for the attempt to murder.
Principle of Probable Consequence
Section 111 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the Principle of Probable Consequence. According to this principle, if there is a difference between the intended act of the abettor and the actual act done, then the abettor will be liable for the actual one. The main precondition is that the actual act is a probable consequence of the Abetment.
For example. The Abetmentwas done for thrashing a person but the act committed was stabbing. Now the abettor will be liable for the stabbing if the latter act is done in the influence of instigation or Abetment.
Scope of Section 112
The extension of section 111 is mentioned in section 112 of the IPC. As per this section, if the person committed more than one act in the influence of instigation, then the abettor will be liable for each and every offence.
For example. X instigated Y to commit rape. Y in the influence, not only committed rape but also killed her. Now X will be liable for the Abetment to rape as well as Abetment to murder.
Scope of Section 113
This section provides for the punishment wherein there is a difference between the intended effect and the actual effect that occurred after the commission of the offence.
Scope of Section 114
Section 114 deals with those cases wherein the actual crime is committed in the presence of an abettor. It is important to note that his mere presence will not make him liable for the offence. He must be sufficiently near to give assistance or he must participate in the alleged offence.
Scope of Section 115
It provides for the punishment of abetment of those offences which attract the death sentence. It comprises of two situations –
1). When the Offence was not committed in consequence of abetment then the punishment is 7 years and fine.
2). When the Offence was committed in the consequence of abetment then the punishment will be 14 years as well as a fine.
Scope of Section 116
Section 116 deals with the punishment of abetment for those offences which attract the punishment of imprisonment for life. It also comprises 2 things
1). When the offence is committed in consequence of abetment then he is entitled to the punishment of 1/4th of the offence as well as of the fine.
2). When the offence is committed by a public servant then the punishment is 1/2th of the actual offence as well as a fine.
Scope of Section 118-120
Section 118 of the IPC provides punishment for intentional facilitation in the crime. Section 119 provides punishment of public servants in the offence of abetment. Lastly, Section 120 of the code, provides for the punishment of deliberately hiding the identity for the offence of abetment.
The offence of abutment is based on the principle of natural justice which provides for punishment for maintaining just and fair law. It is based on jurisprudence that the accomplices in the crime shall also be punished with the main offender.
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