Difference between Common Intention (sec. 34 IPC) and Common Object (sec. 149 IPC)


Before starting let us first have a background knowledge of the use of both these sections by courts. Sections 34 and 149 both resemble in some manner. In both sections, joint liability is created either because of common intention or of common object of the persons alleged to have committing the crime. Persons involving are punishable as sharers in an offence.

1st Case Study:   It is well settled by a catena of decisions that section 34 as well as section 149 deal with liability for constructive criminality i.e. vicarious liability of a person for acts of others. Both the sections deal with combinations of persons who become punishable as sharers in an offence. Thus they have a certain resemblance and may to some extent overlap. But a clear distinction is made out between common intention and common object in that common intention denotes action in concert and necessarily postulates the existence of a pre-arranged plan implying a prior meeting of the minds, while common object does not necessarily require proof of prior meeting of minds or pre- concert. Though there is substantial difference between the two sections, they also to some extent overlap and it is a question to be determined on the facts of each case whether the charge under section 149 overlaps the ground covered by section 34. Thus, if several persons numbering five or more, do an act and intend to do it, both sections 34 and section 149 may apply. If the common object does not necessarily involve a common intention, then the substitution of section 34 for section 149 might result in prejudice to the accused and ought not, therefore, to be permitted. But if it does involve a common intention then the substitution of section 34 for section 149 must be held to be a formal matter. Whether such recourse can be had or not must depend on the facts of each case. The non applicability of section 149 is, therefore, no bar in convicting the appellants under section 302 read with section 34 IPC, if the evidence discloses commission of an offence in furtherance of the common intention of them all.(Chittarmal, Moti vs State Of Rajasthan, 2003 SC.

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Following are the differences between section 34 and section 149 IPC 

i. In Section 34, the basis of liability is common intention and in Section 149, the basis of liability is common object.

ii. Common intention in Section 34 is not defined and it is unlimited whereas common object is very clearly defined in Section 149 and is limited for five unlawful objects mentioned in Section141 of the Code.

iii. Act under Section 34, must be done in furtherance of common intention whereas criminal act in Section 149, must be done in furtherance of a common object.

iv. In Section 34, an active participation is must howsoever small or insignificant it would be. Whereas in Section 149, merely membership of unlawful assembly is sufficient to confer criminal liability.

v. In Section 34, two or more persons can commit the criminal act whereas in Section 149, five persons are necessary to constitute the offence.

vi. Section 34 is about the joint liability but does not create any specific offence whereas Section 149, creates an specific offence. 

vii. Under Section 34, combination of mind previously or pre-plan is a necessary or deciding feature. Whereas in Section 149, membership of unlawful assembly is sufficient.

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2nd Case Study: Supreme Court observed that under Section 34 when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone. The words "in furtherance of the common intention of all" are a most essential part of Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, It is common intention to commit the crime actually committed. This common intention is anterior in time to the commission of the crime. Common intention means a pre-arranged plan. On the other hand, Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code speaks of an offence being committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly. The distinction between "common intention" Under Section 34 and "common object" Under Section 149 is of vital importance. The Sessions Court fell into the error of convicting the appellants Under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code by holding that "if a number of persons assault another with a stick mercilessly their intention can only be to murder that man or at least they should know that they are likely to cause death of the person concerned". This aspect of their being likely to cause death would be relevant Under Section 149 and not Under Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code for the obvious reason that Under Section 34 it has to be established that there was the common intention before the participation by the accused. (Devi Lal And Anr. vs The State Of Rajasthan 1971, SC)

There is a clear distinction between the provisions of s. 34 and s. 149 of the Indian Penal Code and the two  sections are  not to be confused.  The principal element in s. 34  of the  Indian Penal Code is the common intention to  commit  a crime. In furtherance of the common intention several acts may  be done by several persons resulting in the  commission of that crime. In such a situation s. 34 provides that each one  of them  would be liable for that crime  in  the same manner as if all the acts resulting in that crime had been done by him alone. There is no question of common intention in  s.149  of the Indian Penal Code. An  offence  may  be committed by a member of an unlawful assembly and the  other members will be liable for that offence although there was no  common  intention  between that  person  and  the  other members of  the unlawful assembly to commit that offence provided the conditions laid down  in  the section are fulfilled.  Thus if the offence committed by that person  is in prosecution of the common object of the unlawful assembly or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be  committed  in prosecution of the  common  object,  every member of  the unlawful assembly would be  guilty  of that offence,  although there may have been no  common  intention and  no participation by the other members  in the  actual commission of that offence. There  is  a difference between object and  intention, for although  the  object may be common, the intentions  of the several members  of the unlawful assembly  may differ and indeed may be similar only in one respect namely that they are  all -unlawful, while the element of participation  in action, which is the leading feature of s. 34, is  replaced in  s. 149 by membership of the assembly at the time of the committing of the offence. (Nanak Chand vs The State Of Punjab 1955 SC)

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NOTE: The three case studies given above are only meant for better understanding of the distinction between these two sections. As for the purpose of writing in exams it is sufficient if you give a little introduction from the 1st case study and write the main differences as given above.


1. Comment on the following- "There is much difference in the scope and applicability of Sections 34 and 149 though they have some resemblance and are to some extent overlapping" (UP PCS J 1992, 1999, 2006))

2. A and B go armed with knives to kill C. They suddenly find C coming from the opposite direction. B stabs C as a result of which C dies. A runs away. What offence, if any, is committed by A? (RJS 1984)

3. A, B, C, D and E enter X's house at night in order to beat him. When X's servant stopped them, A struck a blow and felled him down. B stole a valuable watch from X's table. C alone gave some lathi blows to X. Point out the offence or offences, if any, which each of the above named five persons, has committed?? (RJS 1969)

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4. A, B, C and D plan to rob a bank. They visit the bank on the decided date and collect cash from the cashier at gunpoint. In the process of trying to escape with the loot they are resisted by the guard and B caused grievous injury with his revolver. On coming out of the bank C notices his enemy E is standing at the bus stop and shoots at him causing his death. What offences, if any, are made out against the respective accused? Give reasons in support of your answer your answer. (DJS 2005)

5. Explain the law relating to constructive criminality and bring out the distinction between common intention and common object. (UP PCSJ 1983, 1986)

6. Explain the distinction between section 30 4IPC and section 149 IPC. (DJS 2005)

7. P, Q and R planned to rob S. While P and Q entered into the house of S and beat and robbed him, R stood outside to warn P and Q of any danger. On being prosecuted along with P and Q, R pleaded that he did neither commit the robbery nor caused injuries to S and hence was not guilty of any offence. Decide.

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