Joint Liability- Section of 34 IPC

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Joint Liability – Section of 34 IPC- Our Legal World

Introduction: Join Liability 

The concept of joint liability is present in both criminal and civil law. Joint liability denotes the obligation of two or more person to be responsible for liability or to pay back a debt. A joint family liability allows parties to share the risk associated with taking on debt and to protect themselves as mentioned in lawsuits, jointly for the credit as co-borrowers which is implied in a general partnership.

Under the civil law, the regulations of a general partnership, any partner entering into a contract with or without the knowledge of the other partner to that contract. If a court finds that a partnership is in fault in a lawsuits, then every partner is responsible for paying is a fault in lawsuits, then every partnership If a court finds that a partnership is in fault in a lawsuits, then every partner is responsible for paying is a fault in lawsuits, then every partnership is fault in lawsuits, paying any monetary legal liability or compensation. As such any partner entering a joint agreement should be aware that they two are liable for the actions of each and every other partner as it pertains to the partnership.


The law relating to ‘joint liability’ is contained in Section 34-38, of Indian Penal Code. There are three more sections in code deal with joint or constructive liability, viz Sec. 149, Sec. 396. Sec. 460.


The Apex Court has earlier held that it is the essence of the section that the person must be physically present at actual commission of crime. The essence of liability under this section is the existence of a criminal intention animating the offenders and the participation in a criminal act in furtherance of common intention.

However, the participation need not in all cases be by physical presence. In offences involving physical violence normally presence at the scene of offence may be necessary, but such is not the case in respect of other offences when the offence consists of diverse acts which may be done at different time and place.

Section 34: Common Intention 

Sections 34-38 lay down the following four important principles governing joint offenders, i.e.

1) A criminal act is done by several persons
2) The criminal act must be to further the common intention of all
3) There must be participation of all the persons in furthering the common intention.

Let us take a hypothetical situation:

There are two-person A and B both of them decided to rob a bank to earn some quick money. A stabbed the guard with a knife due to which he died. Whatever A did is out of fear then A ran with B along with a knife. In this case even though B had no intention of killing the security guard but he will also be liable.

Case laws:

The case of Barendra Kumar Ghosh vs King Emperor was one of the earliest cases where the court convicted another person for the act of the another person for the act of another done in furtherance of common intention. Common intention implies a pre-arranged plan and acting in concert pursuant to the plan. It must be proved that the criminal act was done in concert pursuant to the pre-arranged plan. 

In the case of Kripal Singh vs State of U.P., AIR 1954 SC 706 the apex court ruled that the common intention may develop on the spot as between a number of persons and this has to be inferred from the act and conduct of the accused, and facts and circumstances of the case. 

Some of the sections in which joint liability is discussed in IPC:

Section 34 of IPC gives only a general definition as to what constitutes joint liability, it does not give any punishment for criminal acts done jointly by two or more than two person. This section is only a rule of evidence and it dies not create any substantial offence. Section 34 of IPC is a principle of constructive liability and the essence of that liability is existence of common intention in the minds of accused. There is also a canon in the criminal jurisprudence that the court cannot distinguish between the conspirators and it is not possible for them to see what parts or role is played by which person, so each person is held jointly liable for the acts of the other. In the above case section 34 is applied with section 302 of IPC so as to convict the offender. As no offence is prescribed under section 34 of IPC, this section is always read with other section of IPC. Some other section in which concept of joint liability is discussed in IPC are section 34, section 120A and 120 B, section 149 of IPC.

A) Section 120(A): What constitutes a criminal conspiracy: Illegal Act-
An act which is not illegal by means such an agreement is designated as criminal conspiracy provided that no agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to criminal conspiracy unless some acts beside the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance of.

B) Section 120(B): Prescribes Punishment:
Whosoever is party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death penalty, imprisonment or rigorous punishment for a term of two to more years.

C) Section 149:

The IPC deals with offence in which every member of an unlawful assembly is guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object. The section says “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 member of the assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing that offence is the member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence.”
The punishment under 149 is same as that of the offence which is committed in the unlawful assembly. If the prosecution wants to prove a person guilty under section 149 then it has to prove the presence of that person at the site and his participation in the unlawful assembly.

CO-Operation by during one of several Acts Constituting an Offence: Section 37

“When an offence is committed by means of several acts, whoever intentionally co-operates in the commission of that offence by doing any one of those acts, either singly or jointly with any other person, commits that offence.”


A and B agree to murder Z by severally and at different times giving him small doses of poison. A and B administer the poison according to the agreement with intent to murder Z. Z dies from the effects of the several doses of poison so administered to him. Here A and B intentionally co-operate in the commission of murder and as each of them does an act by which the death is caused, they are both guilty of the offence though their acts are separate.


The concept of joint liability is embodied in section 34 of IPC. This section gives the definition of joint liability and it does not give any punishment for the same. This section has to be read with various section of IPC like section 120 (A) which gives definition of criminal conspiracy. Section 120(B) which gives punishment for criminal conspiracy and section 149 which deals with unlawful assembly. This section 34 cannot be applied as its own and has to applied with some other section so as to make a person jointly liable for that offence.


Written By; Vanshika Jaiswal


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