Charges under Section 149 IPC can be altered to section 34 IPC if common intention among accused is proved: Supreme Court

12 dec 2020

Charges under Section 149 IPC can be altered to section 34 IPC if common intention among accused is proved: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has held that it is permissible to alter a charge under Section 149 of the Indian penal code to charge under Section 34 IPC, if the facts prove that the crime has been committed in advancement of a common intention.
Section 149 of IPC provides for vicarious liability of members of an unlawful assembly for the crime committed by any member of the assembly in furtherance of the common object and makes them liable for the common punishment. The condition available in thi section is that there should be at least five persons or more persons in the assembly.
The Supreme Court was dealing with a situation where three out of the seven persons accused of the offence under Section 307 IPC that is attempt to murder were acquitted. Thus, the number of convicts under the assembly became less than five. The application of Section 149 IPC was not possible in this case. The issue before the court was whether it was lawful to use the aid of Section 34 IPC that is common intention to attribute criminal liability to the members of the group.
The bench comprising of justices N V Ramana, surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose observed that Section 211 to 224 of CrPC, which deals with framing of charges in criminal trials, gives significant flexibility to courts to alter and rectify the charges.
The bench also observed that, section 34 requires active participation and a prior meeting of minds, section 149 IPC assigns liability merely by membership of the unlawful assembly.