Abetment and Criminal Conspiracy: Key Differences

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Abetment is a genus while criminal conspiracy is a species. In this article, we will explore the definition of abetment and criminal conspiracy as well as illustrate the key differences between abetment and criminal conspiracy. 


Abetment is governed under the Indian Penal Code of 1860. It is defined as an act of instigating, provoking, or encouraging a person to do something illegal or commit a crime. It is defined under Section 107 of the IPC, which states that “A person abets the doing of a thing, who—

First.—Instigates any person to do that thing; or

Secondly.—Engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or

Thirdly.—Intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.”

The one who encourages, instigates, or promotes another person to commit a crime is called an ‘abettor’. Section 108 of the IPC defines abettor as “A person abets an offence, who abets either the commission of an offence, or the commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable by law of committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor.” The one who commits an offence is called the ‘principal offender’. Some other important provisions under IPC related to abetment include, ‘Abetment in India of offences outside India’ (Section 108A), ‘Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment’ (Section 109), ‘Punishment of abetment if person abetted does act with different intention from that of abettor’ (Section 110), ‘Liability of abettor when one act abetted and different act done’ (Section 111), ‘Abettor when liable to cumulative punishment for act abetted and for act done’ (Section 112), ‘Liability of abettor for an effect caused by the act abetted different from that intended by the abettor’ (Section 113), ‘Abettor present when offence is committed’ (Section 114), ‘Abetment of offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.—if offence not

Committed’ (Section 115), ‘Abetment of offence punishable with imprisonment—if offence be not committed or if abettor or person abetted be a public servant whose duty it is to prevent offence’ (Section 116), ‘Abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons’ (Section 117), ‘Concealing design to commit offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life’ (Section 118), ‘Public servant concealing design to commit offence which it is his duty to prevent’ (Section 119), and ‘Concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment’ (Section 120). 

Criminal Conspiracy

According to Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, criminal conspiracy is defined as “When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done,—

  • an illegal act, or
  • 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 should amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof. 

Key Differences Between Abetment and Criminal Conspiracy

Provision under IPC

  • Abetment: Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.

Parties Involved

  • Abetment: It usually has two parties, the abettor (one who abets) and the principal offender (one who commits an offence).
  • Criminal Conspiracy: It has at least two parties known as conspirators.


  • Abetment: It can be committed in various methods including conspiracy, instigation, and intentional aid.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: It is one of the methods of abetment.


  • Abetment: It requires three essential elements, instigation, active participation, and the intention to facilitate the commission of crime.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: It has two essential elements, an agreement between 2 or more persons and an intention to commit a crime.


  • Abetment: No prior agreement is required between the abettor and the principal offender. The abettor can assist before, during, or after the crime.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: It requires an agreement (either explicit or implicit) between two or more individuals to commit a crime.

Nature of Offence

  • Abetment: It is not a substantive offence on its own as it requires instigating, aiding, or conspiring to commit the offence.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: It is a substantive offence which means a mere agreement to commit an offence is punishable even though the same is not committed. 

Sanction of Competent Authorities

  • Abetment: In case of abetment, sanction of competent authorities is not necessary for proceeding against the abettors.
  • Criminal Conspiracy: In case of criminal conspiracy, sanction of competent authorities is necessary for proceeding against the conspirators.


  • Abetment: The punishment for abetment varies depending on the nature and severity of the crime committed. The abettor may face penalties similar to those imposed on the principal offender. 
  • Criminal ConspiracySection 120B of the IPC deals with the punishment of criminal conspiracy. Section 120B (1) of the IPC states that “Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, [imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.” Section 120B (2) states that “Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.”

Related Case Laws

1. Which Section of the IPC deals with criminal conspiracy?
2. What are the methods used to commit abetment?