When several persons are associated with the commission of a crime, the degree of culpability of each will depend on the mode of his participation in the crime, for the law recognizes gradations of guilt based on the variety of ways in which a person might be associated in the act of crime. [i]
The term ‘abet’ in general usage means to assist, advance, aid, conduce, help and promote. The word ‘abet’ has been defined as meaning to aid; to assist or to give aid; to command, to procure, or to counsel; to countenance; to encourage; induce, or assist, to encourage or to set another one to commit.[ii] The term ‘abetment’ in criminal law indicates that there is a distinction between the person abetting the commission of an offence (or abettor) and the actual perpetrator of the offence.
This offence of abetment is dealt under Chapter V ‘Of Abetment’ of The Indian Penal Code.
Essentials Of Abetment
Abetment means the instigation of a person to do or not to do an act in a certain way, or aid given by some person to another either of his own accord or under instigation in doing an act which is an offence.
Section 107 of IPC, defines the offence of abetment and a person abets the doing of the thing when he :
- Instigates a person to commit an offence – A person is said to instigate another when he incites, urges, encourages, goads, solicits, or provokes him to do an act prohibited by law. Advice amounts to instigation only when intended to actively suggest or stimulate the commission of an offence. Mere acquiescence does not amount to instigation.
- Abetment by conspiracy – A person is said to abet the commission of an offence by conspiracy, if he enters into an agreement with one or more persons to do a legal act by illegal means, or to do an illegal act, and some act is done in pursuance thereof.
Illustration – A, a servant, enters into agreement with the thieves to keep the doors of his master’s house open so that they can commit theft and accordingly he does so. A is guilty of abetment by conspiracy for the offence of theft.
- Abetment by aid – If a person intentionally renders assistance or gives aid by doing an actor omitting to do an act, is said to abet the commission of an offence. But mere intention to render assistance is not sufficient. There must be some active conduct on the part of abettor and the act must be accomplished in the pursuance thereof.
Aid may be given both by an act of commission as well as by an act of illegal commission.
Illustration – A incites B to kill C by shouting ‘beat beat’ and D puts a knife in A’s hand. Here both A and D are guilty of abetting the offence of murder, one by instigation and other by aiding to commit the offence.
Section 108 of IPC defines abettor who abets :
- The commission of an offence, or
- The commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable of committing an offence in law.
An abettor may be either an instigator, or a conspirator, or helper in the commission of a crime as defined under section 107 of The Indian Penal Code. The abetment must be an offence, if committed by a person capable in law of committing the offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of abettor.[iii] But if the thing abetted is not an offence, the person abetting will not be termed abettor within the meaning of section 108 and cannot be held liable for the punishment.
Punishment Of Abetment
Section 109 prescribes the punishment of offence of abetment, if no express provision is made. It is of general nature and states that if the act abetted is committed in the consequence of abetment, and no express provision has been made for the punishment of such abetment, the abettor will be held liable for punishment to same extent as provided for the particular offence abetted. In such cases, there is no variation between the abetment and the act.
Section 110 deals with the punishment of abetment if person abetted does act with different intention from that of abettor. It prescribes that an abettor would be liable for the act abetted in the same manner and same extent even if the person abetted does the act with a different intention from that of the abettor.
Section 111 defines the liability of abettor when one act is abetted and different act is done. This section enunciates the principle of constructive liability. The liability of the abettor under this section is based on the well established principle of criminal law that ‘every man is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his act’. It extends the liability of an abettor in respect of an act done, which was not contemplated by the abettor.
The Indian Penal Code does not make any distinction between principals in either the first or second degree. All those who are present at the scene and participate in the commission of an offence are liable either as the actual offender under the specific sections of the Code or under the provisions governing joint and constructive liability. But this code, makes a distinction between a principal and an abettor. As such this code penalizes all those who may have lent their support and assistance in one form or the other to the commission of a crime.
Chapter V clearly defines the offence of abetment and its punishment.
(Author: Muskan Krishnani, pursuing B.B.A,. LLB (Second Year) from Amity University, Chhattisgarh.)
[i] Gour, Hari Singh, The Penal Law of India, 11th Edn. , (2000), Vol. 1, pp.969 to 994
[ii] Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, 1994 Cri LJ 3139
[iii] Emperor v. Parimal Chatterjee, AIR 1932 Cal 760