According to American Encyclopaedia, “It has been said that there is perhaps no crime an exact definition of which is more difficult to give than the offence of conspiracy. The essentials of a conspiracy, whether viewed with regard to its importance in a criminal prosecution or its significance in a civil action for dangers are commonly described in this general language; it is a combination between two or more persons to do a criminal or an unlawful act or a lawful act by criminal or unlawful means. This definition perhaps is not perfectly accurate, but is sufficient as a general description of the offence. A conspiracy means nothing more than a combination and agreement by persons to do some illegal act or acts. English Law defined conspiracy as ‘an agreement of two or more persons to do an illegal act or a legal act by an illegal means.
Meaning of Criminal Conspiracy: Halsbury’s Laws of England explain the concept of Criminal Conspiracy thus: “Conspiracy consists in the agreement of two or more persons to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. It is an inevitable offence of common law, the punishment for which is imprisonment or fine or both at the discretion of the Court. The essence of the offence of conspiracy is the fact of combination by agreement. The agreement may be express or implied, or in part express and in part implied. The conspiracy arises and the offence is committed as soon as the agreement is made; and the offence continues to be committed so long as the combination persists. The actus reus in a conspiracy is the agreement to execute the illegal conduct, not the execution of it. It is not enough that two or more persons pursued this same unlawful object at the same time or in the same place; it is necessary to show a meeting of minds, a consensus to effect an unlawful purpose. It is not, however, necessary that each conspirator should have been in communication with every other:” According to Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, “when two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done,- 1) An illegal act, or 2) An act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy: Provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof.
Explanation:- It is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement, or is merely incidental to that object. Ingredients of Section 120A of the Code: The main ingredients of Section 120A of the code are: (to constitute criminal conspiracy): 1) There should be two or more persons; 2) There should be an agreement between themselves; 3) The agreement must be to do or cause to be done: a) An illegal act; or b) A lawful act by illegal means. The proviso to the section amplifies the scope of the liability as follows: 1) In the case of conspiracy to commit an offence, the mere agreement is sufficient to impose liability without the requirement that some overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy should have been committed; 2) However, in the case of a conspiracy to do a legal act by illegal means, there ought to be some overt act which should have been committed by one or more parties to the agreement, apart from the agreement itself. The essence of a criminal conspiracy embodied in Section 120A of the code is the unlawful combination and ordinarily the offence is complete when the combination is framed.
The law of criminal conspiracy as outlined in the IPC takes two forms namely, (i) where overt act is not necessary and an agreement per se is made punishable; and (ii) where overt act is necessary. In the former, a mere agreement to commit an offence (without proof of any overt act in pursuance thereof) amounts to criminal conspiracy. In the latter form, a mere agreement to do or cause to be done an illegal act (other than an offence) or a legal act by illegal means does not amount to criminal conspiracy unless a party to the agreement commits some overt act in pursuance of the agreement.