Abetment has been defined as an act of instigating or encouraging a person to commit a crime, or promoting a person to involve oneself in the conspiracy of a crime, or willfully aiding another to facilitate in furtherance of a crime, under Indian Penal Code. And an abettor is a person liable for the act of abetment. In everyday language, the word of abet means to aid, advance, help, promote and conduce. In the case of Kartar Singh v State of Punjab, Supreme Court in its judgement clarified the meaning of ‘Abetment’ from the legal point of view.
Term of ‘Abetment’ provides a distinction between the actual person committing the crime or principal offender and the person abetting the commencement of crime (abettor) in criminal law. Indian Penal Code provides for the law against offenders liable for the crime of abetment; mentioning their responsibilities and punishments thereof. Chapter V of IPC elucidating the crime of abetment, consists of 15 sections.
Some Sections Under the Head of ‘Abetment’:
Section 107: This section defines abatement in general and then goes on elaborating three ways of abetment i.e., abetment by instigation, abetment by conspiracy and abetment by aid.
Section 108: This section talks about what amounts to an act of abetment of crime and 108A explains the offence of abetment taking place outside India.
Section 109: This section mentions the punishments for the crime of abetment when such an abetment leads to the commission of crime.
Section 110: This section prescribes the punishments for the offence of abetment when the abetted person commits crime with different intention or knowledge from that of the abettor.
Section 111: It talks about the situations when the offence of abetment leads to different consequences than intended but still it’s one of the probable resultants of such abetment.
Section 112: This section maintains the cumulative punishments for cases talked about in section 111.
Section 113: This section acts as a supplementary to section 111 because it contains punishments for the act of abetment when the end result of abetment is different than intended by the abettor.
Section 114: This section talks about the situation when the abettor is present at the time of crime, making him liable for the main offence rather than the offence of abetment.
Section 115 and 116: This section provides for the punishments in case when the crime abetted is not committed.
Section 117: This section talks about the cases where abetment of offence is done by the public at large or large group of people.
Essential of Abetment: Mens Rea
For prosecuting a person for the crime of abetment, there lies an essential to check i.e., mens rea or guilty intention and the liability of proving guilty intention lies on the prosecution. Mere negligence or uninformed facilitation do not count as abetment rather abettor has to have aided the commission of crime intentionally. The fact that the crime occurred was possible due to the interference of abettor or the help provided, is not enough to uphold the abettor responsible for the offence. Therefore, the intentional aiding or instigation needs to be proved.
An offence of aiding a criminal conspiracy done under the threat of life or to property cannot be deemed as an act of abetment. But in the case of Biswabhusan Naik v State of Orissa, Orissa High Court observed that an act of abetment will not need guilty intention where the essentials for the substantive offence itself doesn’t require any intention and the act of abetment for that crime is coupled with the crime itself in the same provision. Such an observation made by Orissa High Court was highly criticized and later corrected.
Abetment By Instigation:
Literally, to instigate means to provoke or to incite or to encourage to do an act and a person is said to instigate another person when he directly or indirectly, intentionally suggests or simulates him for an act by any means possible, or language, either in the form of obvious solicitation or subtle indications, hints, insinuation or by encouragement or evident misinterpretation of facts or willful suppression of prominent facts. It is not necessary to explicitly direct someone to act in a certain way but there has to be some certainty in regards to the meaning of the words or actions used, in order to, decide whether there was evident incitement. Therefore, it is not important to prove the exact words used in the court of law.
Advice can be referred as instigation only if it actively suggests or simulates the commission of a crime. Therefore, mens rea plays an important role in instigation. And no comment or acquiescence uttered in fit of anger or spur of moment will constitute abetment by instigation. The abettor must possess the knowledge of danger and consequences associated with the act that is being instigated. In case of instigation through the means of letters, the offence of abetment with the help of letter is assumed completed, as soon as, the person to whom the letter is directed comes to the knowledge of such a letter.
Sanju v State of M.P (2002)
This case is considered as the landmark case for the abetment of suicide. In this case, ensuing the fight between a husband and wife, in the fit of anger husband told his wife “to go and die” and two days later, his wife committed suicide and left a dying declaration. Court held that mere pronouncement of words of ‘go and die’ doesn’t count as abetment by instigation because of lack of mens rea. Moreover, wife committed suicide after two days showing that the suicide was not the direct result of the argument. Therefore, the husband cannot be held liable for the offence of abetment.
Dowry deaths-result of abetment:
Abetment by instigation is one of the prominent ways that’s been involved in the cases of deaths of women and young bride because of dowry harassments. According to the recent published reports, around seven thousand cases of dowry deaths were reported in 2018 itself. Supreme court of India made a statement that anyone can be charged with abetment of suicide, if the death in question is suicidal. There are two ways for charging someone for the abetment of suicide:
- Husband/relative of husband can be charged for abetting his wife to commit suicide.
- Relative or any other person can be charged for abetment for invoking husband to kill his wife.
Protima Dutta v State of West Bengal:
In this case, the mother-in-law and husband of the deceased were charged for abetment of suicide. The court observed that many circumstances made it clear that the mother-in-law at many stances by conduct and spoken words, either directly or indirectly suggested deceased to commit suicide. Though this might not count as the express solicitation but the cruelty that the deceased suffered at the hands of mother-in-law and her husband for months was enough to show instigation.
Abetment By Conspiracy:
Conspiracy means coming together of two or more persons, with general agreement to do some illegal act or effect a legal purpose with the help of illegal means. It is not necessary for the person involved in conspiracy to be involved with the act itself.
Abetment by conspiracy is mentioned under section 107 of IPC and it differs from the conspiracy under the section 120A of IPC. An offence of abetment by conspiracy requires an act or illegal omission in furtherance of conspiracy whereas, conspiracy given under section 120A requires mere agreement over the commission of crime.
Abetment By Intentional Aiding:
A person is said to abet the commission of an offence by aiding if that person willfully felicitates or assist or gives aid by performing certain act or by omitting act. Mere intention doesn’t hold anyone liable and there must be some active participation on the part of the abettor and act should be achieved in pursuance. The aid rendered should be done either prior to the commission of the crime or during the time of commission. Other essential is that the act or omission done to assist the offence must have been done intentionally and with knowledge. It is important to note that unless it is proved that without the help or assistance of the abettor, the commission of the crime was impossible to take place, the abettor would not be held liable for the offence of abetment under this section.
Abetment of Offences Outside India:
Section 108A provides for the punishment for the offence of abetment committed outside of India, which if would have taken place in India, would have constituted an offence. This Section was primarily added in Indian Penal Court in 1898 in order to overrule the Bombay High Court’s decision, in the case of Queen Empress v Ganapatrao Ramachandra, that stated that the offence of abetment committed in a foreign jurisdiction by an Indian citizen, would not be charged under the IPC.
The provision of abetment under the Indian Penal Code has over the years has expanded to become more inclusive of different crimes committed under the shade of abetment. It seems to be sufficient from the perspective of both offence per se and penalty or punishments awarded to the offenders. Therefore, we can say that the provision of abetment as a crime under IPC is reasonable and fair law that aids to promote the principle of natural justice in our legal system.
 Kartar singh v state of Punjab, 1994 Cri Lj 3319
 Indian Penal Code, K A Pandey , B M Gandhi, EBC 4th Edition
 Biswabhusan Naik v State of Orissa, AIR 1952 Orissa 289 (299)
 (1977) 81 Cal W N 713 (723)
 Sanjay Singh Senger v State of Madhya Pradesh, 2002
 (1977) 81 Cal WN 713
 AIR 1960 Pat 459 (468)
 AIR 1919 Oudh 160 (175)
 (1984) ILR 19 Bom 105
This article has been written by Devyani Mishra, B.A. LL.B (Hons) student at NLIU, Bhopal.