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Mere presence of common interest not enough for criminal action: Supreme Court

In a criminal appeal before the Supreme court involving challenge of conviction of person against whom section 34 of IPC was invoked was decided by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh and they also went on to discuss the scope of the section 34 in the matters between Japreet Singh @ Jassu v State of Punjab CRA 1854 of  2021 decided on 7.1.2022.

The facts of the case are that two appellants were convicted with life imprisonment under section 34 of IPC along with other accused.The third appellant in another appeal seeked modification in the order of conviction in judgement.

The counsel for the Appellant contended that a mere statement per se of a prosecution witness cannot be the basis to attract section 34 and depositions by the witness is very doubtful.

The counsel for the Respondent contended that it is not necessary that the accussed will do any physical act in order to attract section 34 and mere of the accused will suffice.Conviction was confirmed by High Court after consideration of all evidences with cogent reasoning and hence, further interference with the conviction is not required.

The Supreme Court held that mere common intention per se cannot attract section 34 and  there is lack of sufficient evidence to that section 34 can be attracted against the appellants.There are cases where a person can be active while forming common intention for a crime but might withdraw later.The appeal by the both the accused was allowed and the one filed by the third appellant was dismissed. The court also laid down scope of applicability of the provision from various judgeemnts enumerated as under:

  1. Section 34 IPC constitutes a fictional fiction by infecting and importing, in accordance with a common intent, an act that constitutes a criminal offense committed by someone.
  2. The purpose of IPC Chapter 34 is to eliminate difficulties in distinguishing the acts of individual members of a party acting with a common intent. To bring about a particular outcome, persons involved in criminal action must have a simultaneous conscious mind.
  3. What is required is proof of common intention. Therefore, there may be a crime with no common intent, in which case Section 34 of the IPC cannot be invoked.
  4. Onus is on the prosecution to prove common intent to the satisfaction of the court.
  5. The quality of the evidence will need to be substantial, concrete, precise and clear. When some of the evidence presented by the prosecution to bring the accused under the scope of Article 34 is not satisfactory, the remaining part will need to be examined with sufficient care and attention then he is charged with the same treatment as the person who actually committed the crime.
  6. Only on the basis of mere  common intention per se will not be attracted without an action in furtherance to it.

Judgement Reviewed by Bhaswati Goldar

Jasdeep_Singh_Jassu_v_State_of_Punjab

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