The law concerning to ‘Joint Liability’ is contained in Sections 34-38 of IPC, 1860. Other sections relating to joint liability are Section 120A and B which lays down criminal conspiracy and punishment for it, section 149 relating to “unlawful assembly”, Section 396 dealing with “dacoity with murder or grievous hurt” and section 460- “Persons jointly concerned in lurking house trespass by night causing death or grievous hurt by one of such persons.”

Joint Liability is also known as ‘constructive liability’. Constructive Liability in criminal law means the liability of a person for an offence which he has not actually committed.


Section 34 of Indian Penal Code states the provisions regarding joint liability. “When a criminal act is done by several persons in furthers of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done but for him alone.”

In other words, an act which is criminal in nature and multiple persons involves in performing that act which is pre-determined with an intention common in nature, then liability for commission of such act lies upon all those persons involved in the equivalent manner.

ILLUSTRATION: X, Y, and Z agree to kidnap and kill ‘C’. All three will be held liable equally even if X makes an attack resulting in death of C.

Following essential conditions of Joint Liability are denoted in this section-

1. An act criminal in nature has been done.

  • An act which is offensive in nature and is sanctioned or punishable by the law.

2. Several persons were involved in commission of act.

  • Further criminal act, act must be performed by more than one person. Thus, there must be two or more persons in commission of an act resulting in joint liability.

Kishore Chand v/s State of Himachal Pradesh[1] – when two persons have caused two different offences with different purpose, then section 34 cannot be applied.

3. Common intention and criminal knowledge of several persons was involved in commission of such act.

  • There must be common purpose and intent of the persons involved in an act. Also, mere common intention is not a crime, there must be commission of such act(s) in continuance of common intention.

Darbara Singh V. State of Haryana[2]– Deceased was scything grass in a field where four persons attacked him with arms causing death. The trial court convicted the accused under sections 302 and 34. It was held by S.C. that the accused and the deceased were the rivals making criminal intention clear. There were 13 injuries infused by several weapons on the body of the deceased which indicates 2 or more person were involved.

4. Every person involved in commission of act is liable for it in the same manner as done by him/her alone.

  • Commission an offence by several persons in a pre-arranged or premediated plan, each of such persons shall be held liable and no one can take the plea that one is less responsible in comparison to others in such an act.

Wasim Khan v/s State of U.P.[3]– it was held, where other offenders have been acquitted, one offender can also be held responsible for the same for his/her conduct and consciousness of guilt.

Meaning of ‘common Intention’

Common Intention is multiple people having the same or equal intent or purpose in result of an act. Therefore, in a predetermined and a premediated plan to commit an act in persistence to same motto, then the act after commission is said to be ‘common intention’ in performance of an act.

Gurdatta Mal V. State of U.P.[4]It is leading case of ‘common intention. It was held that if two conditions for joint liability are fulfilled, then all accused persons would be liable for common intention and participation in an act for murder.

Meaning of ‘Pre-arranged plan’

Any act which is pre-planned or framed by the offenders to cause mishap is a pre-arranged plan. It may be done just before instigating an offensive act or a time ago.

M.A. Abdulla Kunhi and others V. State of Kerala[5]– Accused persons were attacking the deceased, where a friend of accused was also standing who also tried to attack deceased by the sword but was barred by some people from attacking the deceased. It was held that, he also intended to cause the death of deceased along with other accused therefore stands liable for an act. This comes under Joint Liability.

Meaning of ‘Meeting of mind’

It implies when offenders are aware about the criminal knowledge and of an offence and they give consent for perform it. This makes a clear impression about their intention to cause an act with knowledge about its effects.

State of U.P. V. Ashok Kumar Srivastava[6] Death of a lady was caused by burning which was a dowry death. Decided there was common intention to cause the death of lady by burning. This comes under Joint Liability.


In the system of collective liability, at least two individuals are involved, the greater number of persons may be up to infinite amounts. Numerous individuals are liable to collective criminal liability on the grounds of an unlawful act carried out jointly by them or are more or less connected to an act. In cases of joint liability, it is not mandatory for a quantum penalty to be given equal to all accused persons. Equal punishment can also be given on the grounds of the unfair role played by the specific victim, but one thing is clear that both individuals have engaged in the criminal act. It is a contribution to an act that makes all the accused collectively responsible.

[1] [1991] 1 S.C.J. 68, 76

[2] 1992 SCR (2) 586

[3] 1956 SCR 191

[4] AIR 1965 SC 257

[5] AIR 1991 SC 452

[6] 1992 SCR (1) 37

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