By Priyanka Agarwal, Chaudhary Charan Singh University.

Abetment is an offence only if the act abetted would itself be an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law for the time being in force.

Chapter V, Sections 107 to Sections 120 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 are related with abetment. When several persons take part in the commission of an offence, each one of them may contribute in a manner and degree different from the others. The offence may be committed by the hands of one person at the instigation of another person, while some other may only be present for offering help at the time of commission of it, and still others may help the principal culprit in procuring the tolls. It is necessary, therefore, to mark the nature and degree of participation of each of the persons to determine their degree of culpability. However, several gradations of action do not necessarily imply different measures of guilt with a view to distinctions in punishment.

Under English Law, distinction is made between Principals who may be of the first and second degree and the accessories before and after the fact.

Under Indian Law, a broader distinction is made between the principals and abettors by the Indian Penal Code, but it does not recognise the accessory after the fact except that harbouring of offenders has been made a substantive offence in some cases.[1]

Abetment is constituted in the following ways under the Indian Penal Code:

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  • By instigating a person to commit an offence; or
  • By engaging in a conspiracy to commit an offence; or
  • By intentionally aiding a person to commit an offence
  1. Instigation

To instigate means to actively suggest or to stimulate by any means or language, direct or indirect, whether it takes the form of express solicitation, or of hints, insinuation or encouragement[2]. It also means to goad or urge forward to provoke, incite, urge or encourage to do an act[3]. Instigation is an act of inciting another to do a wrongful act. One may abet the commission of an offence by counselling, suggesting, encouraging, procuring or commanding another to do an act. In order to constitute abetment by instigation some active proceeding towards the perpetration of the crime is necessary[4].

Following are some forms of instigation:

  • Wilful misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact – Instigation by wilful concealment is there where concealment relates to a material fact which one owes a legal duty to disclose[5].
  • Instigation by letter
  • Direct Instigation
  • Silent approval shown in any way that had the effect of inciting and encouraging the offence is abetment[6].
  1. Conspiracy

Under Sec. 107(2), mere conspiracy of two or more persons is not enough, but some act or illegal omission must take place in furtherance of that conspiracy. Sanction of competent authorities is not necessary to proceed against the Abettors, who merely abetted to commit a crime. Clause II has to be read with explanation 5 of the section 108, which provides that it is not necessary to the commission of the offence of abetment by conspiracy that the abettor should concert the offence with the person who commits it.

If a person prepares, in conjunction with others a copy of an intended false document and buys a stamped paper for the purpose of writing such false document and also asks for information as to a fact to be inserted in such false document, he would be guilty for abetment of forgery because these are the acts done to facilitate the commission of the offence[7].

Conviction for Conspiracy- No person can be convicted for conspiracy if the charge against all other conspirators has failed[8].

  1. Abetment by Aid

A person abets the doing of a thing who intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that things. Clause III of section 107 must be read with Explanation 2 of the section, that a person cannot be held guilty of aiding the doing of an act when the act has not been done at all. For instance if a servant keeps open the gate of his master’s house, so that thieves may enter, and thieves do not come, he cannot be held to have abetted the commission of theft[9]. But if such a person, after having opened the door or before it, informs possible thieves that he is going to keep the door open, then he encourages by his conduct to commit theft and is guilty of abetment by instigation; or if prior to the opening of the gate he had entered into an agreement with the thieves to keep the door open he would be guilty of abetment by conspiracy.

A mere giving of an aid does not make the act an abetment of an offence.

Mere presence does not amount to aiding– To be present and aware that an offence is about to be committed does not constitute abetment unless the person so present holds some position of authority, rank or influence of such a nature, that his countenancing the offence, under the circumstances, be held a direct encouragement or unless some specific duty of prevention rests on him which he leaves unfulfilled in such a manner that he may be safely taken as having joined in conspiracy for preparation of the offence[10]

Aid by illegal omission– Aid may be rendered by act as well as by illegal omission. When the law imposes on a person a duty to discharge, his failure to discharge renders him liable to punishment[11].

Aid by act–In Emp. v. Ram Lal[12], some persons did their best to dissuade a woman from becoming a Sati. They had also given information to the nearest police and helped her in becoming Sati. They were all held guilty of abetment.

Section 108 defines abettor as a person who abets an offence, who abets either the commission of an offence, or the commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable by law of committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor.

Therefore, for this we can clearly see that these inchoate offences are different from all other offences in the Indian Penal Code. These offences discourage people from committing a grievous offence as a failure to commit the offence will still lead to their prosecution under the law for a sizable amount of time.

[1] Refer to sections 130, 136,201, 212, 216 and 216-A of the I.P.C.

[2]Aminuddin, (1922) 24 Bom. L.R. 534.

[3]Parimal Chaterjee, (1932) 60 Cal. 327.

[4]R. v. Taylor, 44 L.J.M.C. 67.

[5] Section 107, Explanation I

[6]Queen v. Mohit, 3 N.W. P. 316.

[7]Pramatha Nath v. Saroj Ranjan, A.I.R. 1962 S.C. 876.

[8]Jogjiban Ghose, (1909) 10 Cri. L.J. 125

[9]Huda S.; The Principles of the Law of Crimes

[10]Lakshmi, (1886) Cr.R.No. 5 of 1886 Unrep. Cr.C. 303

[11]Emp. v. Latif Khan, Bom. 394

[12]L. & C. 161.

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