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The study on topic conspiracy will give us an idea about, the infringement in law of tort or torts. For torts there is no codified law but in IPC conspiracy is stated as offence in the section 120 A & 120 B. Law or law of tort or torts. On daily basis we face many kinds of tortious activity, some can bring criminal action and some are civil wrong. The paper is going to deal with one of this kind of tortious activity. This activity not only come under civil wrong but, it also comes under criminal wrong and for that reason it holds special position in law of torts, i.e., Conspiracy.

The paper in detail talks about the conspiracy, remedies available against the wrongdoer or action or legal action that can be taken against the wrongdoer. The paper in deals with different types of conspiracy, and how every different types of conspiracy have their different provision in laws and how different conspiracy differ in itself. The paper also talks about different case laws, about the land mark judgements, and how they play very crucial role. The paper also talks about some case laws that plays role of precedents. After reading this paper we will easily be able to differentiate between the conspiracy in torts and in criminal law. The paper will also be going to deal about different types of conspiracy in both the field of law i.e., law of torts and in criminal law.

Conspiracy can be defined as when two or more than two people join together to perform any illegal or unlawful activity which could further leads to violation of someone�s legal right or any kind of physical damage. Now the most important question that arises in our mind is that whether conspiracy comes under law of torts or inside criminal law. Whether it is a civil wrong or criminal wrong. The main stumble recognizing the act of conspiracy as a tort is the confusion about the cause of action. In such cases the cause of action is unclear of can not be defined.

Criminal law is codified but law of tort or torts is not. So, In IPC the act of conspiracy is mentioned in section 120A and 120B. After reading the above line we could establish a very small doubt as why both tort and torts and what is the difference between them? Basically, Winfield defined tort as Tort because he believed that every civil wrong comes under Law of tort.

But Salmond gave a very different and unique definition which is known as Salmond�s Pigeon hole theory in which he stated that there are numerous torts historically mentioned and when any wrongdoer infringes that norms than the act could be considered wrong in law of �Torts�. Members who make conspiracy are known as conspirators. It is not necessary to carry out the whole act for which the conspiracy was created or planning was done. If any of the conspirators acts or perform any of the activity which is connected to the conspiracy is treated as an offence.

Conspiracy can be defined as a secret plan by more than one person to do something illegal or unlawful. Let�s understand an illustration to make a clear and compact understanding of the word Conspiracy.

Illustration: Suppose there are 5 friends naming A, B, C, D, E and they are planning to do something. In which A, B, C accepted that they are ready to rob the bank. Friends D, E didn�t say anything but they appeared in every meeting that were conducted for the planning of the robbery. So, we can say that D, E are admitting to be a part of the robbery. We can say that A, B, C are expressly agreeing and D, E are implicitly agreeing to rob the bank. Which therefor creates an agreement between them in which A, B, C are explicitly involved and D, E are implicitly agreed. So, we can conclude that 5 of them together intent for bank robbery. After that they meet at A�s house to plan a robbery so our first and main condition of conspiracy is fulfilled in this manner that more than to person agree together for doing an illegal task or unlawful act. Now they decided to arrange all the equipment for bank robbery, firstly they visited to check the security cameras and then they pooled money for arranging masks and guns as they are the most important assets for the accomplishment of the robbery. So, all the friends are appearing in every meeting. So, this is what we Understand by the word Conspiracy.

Now conspiracy can be divided into two parts, Criminal Conspiracy and Conspiracy in Law of Torts.

Criminal Conspiracy
  • Criminal conspiracy is covered under section 120A and 120B of the IPC.
  • Definition of criminal conspiracy (section 120 A)
When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done:
  1. An illegal act
  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.

Section 120B
Section 120 B state that:
Punishment of criminal conspiracy:
  1. Whoever is party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death,
  2. Imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made this code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.
  3. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as a aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with fine or with both.
2.Subs. by act 26 of 1955, s. 117 and Sch., for transportation.

Ingredients of the Offence of criminal Conspiracy:
  1. An agreement between two or more persons
  2. The agreement must relate to doing or causing to be done either:
    1. An illegal act
    2. An act which is not illegal in itself but is done by illegal means.
  3. The agreement maybe express or implied, or in part express and in part implied.
  4. The conspiracy arises and the offence is committed as soon as the agreement is made.
  5. And the offence continues to be committed so long as the combination persists.
  6. That is until the conspiratorial agreement is terminated.

To prove criminal conspiracy which is punishable under section 120B
  • There must be direct or circumstantial evidence
  • To show there was an agreement.
  • Between two or more persons to commit an offence.

Conspiracy in Law of Torts
Before understanding the conspiracy in law of torts lets first understand, what is law of torts?
Law of torts can be understood by the definitions written by many influential writers.
  1. Winfield- Tortious liability arises from breach of a duty primarily fixed by the law: this duty is towards persons and generally and its breach is redressable by action for unliquidated damages.
  2. Fraser � It is an infringement of a right in rem of a private individual giving a right of compensation at the suit of the right of compensation at the suit of the injured party.
    *In rem-it means in against of someone
  3. Salmond- It is a civil wrong for which the remedy is a common law action for un liquidated damages & which is not exclusively the breach of a contract or breach of a trust or other merely equitable delegation.

After reading these definitions we can conclude 3 things that are important in understanding the Torts.
They are
  • Civil Wrong
  • Breach of Duty
  • Infringement of Right in law.

A Conspiracy is an unlawful association of two or more than two persons, to do any act which is not legal according to the law of land or to do something harmful towards another person or to carry out an act not in itself unlawful, but by unlawful means.

For understanding more let�s try to understand with the help of an illustration
Suppose there are 4 friends Mr. Q, Mr. W, Mr. E, and Mr. R. After a very big argument Mr. Q, Mr. W, and Mr. E decided to do some fraudulent act which could violate the rights of Mr. R as that was the prime target of the three friends.

The above illustration shows us the presence of more than two friends and also the presence of act which they want to perform which could violate the rights of Mr. R.
Now, let us understand the essentials of Conspiracy under Law of Torts or Civil Conspiracy.

Having an intention to harm is the foremost and the most essential essence to become any wrong a civil wrong. There must be a common intention from all the parties that agree to harm any person. The degree of intention could defer from person to person but the intention should be there.

Ideally, individuals never act upon anything with the same motive but the crux of the conspiracy theory is to analyse the predetermined purpose for which the above conspiracy or planning was committed
If the intentions are not converted in the action than no case will going to be presented in the court and no one can sue someone for their imaginary intention.

So, we can conclude that conversion of intentions is also a prime factor of conspiracy to be in acted as crime.

Now let us understand this with an Illustration:
Suppose, there are 3 friends Mohan, Shyam and Rohan Mohan and Shyam start a business which is harming the business of Rohan. In the above we can say that there was no intention of Rohan and Shyam but their act was harming Rohan. But This case will not be going to get consideration in the Hon�ble court as there was no motive and intention.

It refers to the no. of persons involved it the act of false planning that is conspiracy. There must be more than 2 persons involved and their intentions and action must match.
There could be a condition where more than 2 persons could have same intention but they act separately. This is not considered as conspiracy as action together is most important essentials. There must be a mutual agreement.

Now let us understand this with an Illustration:
Suppose Shyam entered Ravi�s house for attempting robbery but at the same time Ram also entered the house with the same motive of attempting robbery.
In the above case we can conclude that whether the intentions are same but the Action on the above intensions are not mutually decided so it didn�t result to conspiracy.

Over Act
Another essential is that there must be an over act which is acted by the defendants which causes or caused harm to the accused person. It is not necessary that whole planned conspiracy should be fulfilled for the punishment even a single step towards the completion of conspiracy could amount to the offense.

For the overact to be considered as essential, it is necessary that one of the contributors have acted for the fulfilment of the intension behind the conspiracy.

Thus, for a conspiracy to be considered as a civil conspiracy, it is necessary that one of the conspirators has acted in furtherance of the plan.

Now, let us understand this with an Illustration:
Suppose 4 friend decided to harm someone but they didn�t perform any of the decided task.
This is not a case of conspiracy. But if anyone of them started to in act the plan then it must be a case of Conspiracy.
Like planning a robbery is not a crime but implementing a planned robbery is a crime under both conspiracy and robbery or theft.

Types of Conspiracy Under Torts
Now, we we�ll going to discuss the different types of Conspiracy under Law of Torts.
  1. General
  2. Conspiracy to injure
  3. Unlawful Means Conspiracy

General Conspiracy
A general conspiracy is a situation in which more than two people perform an act which is violating the rights of any person or harming the accused physically. In other words, we can say that it is a situation when 2 or more than 2 persons comes into an agreement which is intended to harm someone physically or violating its legal rights.

When 2 persons agree to perform any activity, which is illegal in the law is known as general conspiracy.

Conspiracy to Injure
This kind of conspiracy is also known as �Crofter� Conspiracy, as this doctrine has emerged in the case of Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch. It was laid down in this case that when an association is formed by people with the sole purpose of inflicting damage upon someone, which would otherwise be lawful even if committed by one person with an intention of causing harm.

It is a type of conspiracy in which the sole motive of the parties is to harm the accused.

Now let us understand it with an example:
If two people, suppose X & Y are doing some act in pursuance of their business for expanding their business and increasing their gains but also end up injuring someone. In such cases, if there was no intention to harm the injured person, then the act is not actionable in the eyes of law.

Unlawful Means Conspiracy
This type of tort involves an agreement between two or more than two parties. Wherein, at least one of them agrees regarding using unlawful means against the claimant.

Let�s discuss an important case:
Rotas Industries vs Rotas Industries Staff Union
The facts, in this case, were that the workmen of the two industrial premises went on a strike. The Strike mentioned above was illegal under Section 23 r/w Section 24 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Now, the question which came before the Supreme Court was that if, the workmen are liable to pay the compensation for the losses incurred by the management during the strike period.

The Court stated that the object of the strike was not to inflict any injuries or damages to industrial establishments. Although the act of strike would be considered as conspiracy, it was not actionable.

There are two elements of this type of conspiracy:
  1. The intention of the Defendant
  2. Unlawful Means

The Intention of the Defendant
This type of conspiracy does not require any predominant intention to injure the claimant. However, the intention need not be predominant in this case but, the claimant must have suffered damage as a result of the act.
The damage to the claimant must be treated as an essential cornerstone while determining the liability of the defendant or the accused.

Unlawful Means
Unlawful means are the acts or the conspiracy of such acts that would be wrongful and actionable under the Tort Law. Even those acts are considered in this category which would have been of criminal nature if committed by a single person.

If these two elements are proved to be present in an act, then such an act would be considered as �Unlawful Means Conspiracy�.

Case Laws
  1. Ajay Agarwal vs. Union of India and Oars (JT 1993 (3) SC 203),
    In the above case the Hon�ble court of justice mentioned that it is not necessary that every participant of the Conspiracy must know all the facts about the conspiracy.
    But to agree for a particular motive together is important.
    In the above case defendant was held liable as he accepted the offer by his friend for planning some illegal act.
    Planning some illegal act itself is known as conspiracy.�
    He stated that he was not known to every fact that�s why his punishment should be less than that others.
    But the court gave the same punishment in the case of conspiracy but the court considered this fact while giving judgement regarding the real offence.
  2. Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co. Ltd vs Veitch 15 December, 1941, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JU/4/3/966.
    This case laid down the concept of Conspiracy to injure. This type of conspiracy is also known as Crofter conspiracy, the name of the conspiracy was coined after this case only.
    In the above case it was found that conspiracy is not limited till violating of legal rights or harassing somebody mentally but conspiracy could be planned for harming somebody physically too.
  3. A remarkable was judgement was given ion another case of Mogul Steamship co. VS Mc Gregor 1892, AC 25.
    IN the above case it was coined that conspiracy could also be planned for injuring the economic condition of the persons.
    In the above case Company was the plaintiff and they were the prey of conspiracy which was reducing the profit that they can attain so the hon�ble court Accepted there complain and they held that any conspiracy which is just made for harming someone personally economic or in physical way it is a conspiracy of injure in the eye of Law.
  4. Sorel vs Smith
    The plaintiff, who was a retail newsagent, used to take his newspaper from R. He withdrew his custom from R, and started taking newspaper from W. The defendants, who were the members of a committee of circulation managers of London Daily papers, threatened to cut off the newspaper supply to W, if he continued to supply newspapers to the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed an action against the committee. The defendants were held not liable, since they had acted in this way to increase their own business interests.
    Their main objective was not to harm the newsagent i.e., plaintiff so they can�t be held liable.
  5. Huntley vs Thornton
    There was a call for strike by a worker�s‟ union. The plaintiff, a member of the union, refused to comply with the union�s call for strike. The defendants, the secretary and some members of the union, wanted the expulsion of the plaintiff from the union, but the executive council of the union decided not to do that. The defendants then, out of spite against the plaintiff, made sure that he remained out of work. In this case, the acts of the defendants were predominantly intended to injure the plaintiff because of their grudge. The defendants were held liable and the plaintiff was entitled to recover damages.
  6. Revenue and Customs Commissioners v. Total Network SL
    A person A in country X contracted to sell goods to B in country Y. B then sold the goods to C and C paid VAT for it. B then disappeared without paying revenue for the VAT earned by him and C resold the goods to A and reclaimed his VAT before the Revenue discovered the disappearance of B. In this case, conspiracy to injure could not be proved, because the predominant purpose of the combiners was not to injure, but to gain profit. But the unlawful means conspiracy was applicable here and they were held liable for the tort of conspiracy of the nature of unlawful means conspiracy.
The concept of law of torts was emerged from the colonial rule. That means the concept of torts came in our country from England. There are many differences in between our country�s law of torts and other country�s law of torts as because of the wide range of culture and social system that is present in our country. After reading many cases and mentioning them in my paper I can conclude that Law of torts of our country need to get develop in our country as the prime reason is because it needs to get codified and also in our country punishment of the wrong gets more support rather than compensation of loss to the accused.

A conspiracy is defined as the planned unlawful deed that is commenced by two or more than two persons to carry out their objective to infringing the legal right or injuring them physically or with any other means. Commencement of the act is not important in law of torts for recognizing it as conspiracy but if any person even start the decided conspiracy by committing the initial action for the accomplishment of the conspired act than the people who organised the conspiracy can be held liable.

The only problem that I see in the conspiracy is that if there are 3 conspirators and if case does not stand against two of them than 3 party cannot be trailed under the light of laws as the essential of conspiracy is not held in that position.

Also, the bunch of evidences is the most important thing in the conspiracy. If the Motive, Place of planning and the different criteria are not satisfied than no one can be able to proof the conspirators guilty and they can get rid to the case very easily. The most important thing in proofing the conspiracy is that it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove the common intension, which is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish.

There is also a risk of claims being made in conspiracy, where a business is carried on, or a transaction made, in the knowledge that financial loss thereby will be inflicted upon a competitor, where there is some illegality involved, either under criminal or tort law. To what extent must subjective knowledge be shown of such illegality?

If a person knows all the facts showing unlawful means but he does not realize the means are unlawful, is this sufficient for the tort of conspiracy? This is a difficult question on which there are different dicta. Those who deliberately breach the law, tort or criminal, in commercial activity may find themselves being sued in economic tort for substantial sums, by competitors, where there is some nexus between the illegal means and loss caused. Therefore, tort conspiracy in India requires many reforms and enactments to make it more ascertainable.

  • Goertzen, T. (1994). Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Political Psychology, 15(4), 731-742. doi:10.2307/3791630
  • O'Sullivan, J. (2007). Intentional Economic Torts in the House of Lords. The Cambridge Law Journal, 66(3), 503-507. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from
  • Burdick, F. (1908). The Tort of Conspiracy. Columbia Law Review, 8(2), 117-120. doi:10.2307/1109583
  • Gardner, J. (2011). What Is Tort Law For? Part 1. The Place Of Corrective Justice. Law and Philosophy, 30(1), 1-50. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from
  • Murphy, J. (2012). Misfeasance in a Public Office: A Tort Law Misfit? Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 32(1), 51-75. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from
  • Tabriz, S. (2013). The Battlefield Preemption Doctrine: Preempting Tort Claims Against Contractors On The Battlefield To Preserve Federal Interests In Wartime Matters. Public Contract Law Journal, 42(3), 629-648. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from
Written By: Sambhav Purohit - Alliance School of Law, Alliance University, Bangalore

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