Genesis of the Institute of Complicity in the Indian Criminal Law in XIX Century

Cover Page

Cite item


The Article deals with the history of doctrinal and legal formation of the institute of complicity in the Indian criminal law during colonial period. The mixed nature of the law system assumes some approaches to the criminal conspiracy as from the orthodox tradition (Sanskrit texts, and the treatises of Hinduism), and on the subsystem of the Islamic law. The Article provides the historical analysis of preparatory materials to the Indian Penal Code of 1860 (IPC), the opinions of the leading scientists-criminologists and main judgments. The authors express own opinion on a perspective of group criminality and its influence on the history of the Indian criminal law. Some crime statistics and collecting crime data during the colonial period in India are descript of a criminogenic situation as empirical materials. The prevalence of joint criminal activity and organized groups of local inhabitants was a result of traditional exclusive hierarchy and collective ideology in British India. Religious criminal sect of thugs (a gang of professional murderers and robbers) made the most dangerous category of “criminal tribes” in the colonial period. The organized criminal activity of the thugs was the reason of theoretical search of new criminal policy methods and ways of judicial prosecution in colonial India. As a result, authors have allocated some main figures of British officials who developed the concept of complicity and practically approve “joint participation” in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 during the expanded professional criminality connected with hunger, rebellions, ritual robberies and sacrifices. The Article identifications of some features of the crime partnership in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 (innovative provisions of Macaulay's project), in comparison with the complicity in the common law tradition. The consolidated provisions of abetment in the Indian Penal Code regulated various forms of complicity, grounds for prosecution (liability of abettor), distinction mens rea and actus reus of accomplices, abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons, abetment if offence be not committed, concealing design to commit offence, etc. In the conclusion authors believe that at the present stage in the Indian Penal Code washing out of initially narrow interpretation of complicity in the crime (abetment of offence) and of judicial interpretation of it’s various forms and questions of punishment of accomplices is observed.

About the authors

Nina A Krasheninnikova

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.

Doctor of Legal Sciences, Professor, Professor, History of State and Law Department, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University.

1/13-14, Leninskie Gory st., GSP-1, Moscow, Russia, 119991

Elena N Trikoz

RUDN University


Candidate of Legal Sciences, Associate Professor, Associate Professor, History of Law and State Department, Law Institute, RUDN University

6, Miklukho-Maklaya st., Moscow, Russia, 117198


  1. Banerjee, T. K. (1962) The Substantive Criminal Law Prior to the Indian Penal Code. In: Essays on the Indian Penal Code Published on the Centenary of the Indian Penal Code. Bombay, N. M. Tripathi, pp. 3–32.
  2. Chernykh, A. V. (1986) Otvetstvennost' za souchastiye v prestuplenii po angliyskomu ugolovnomu pravu [Responsibility for Complicity in the Crime in English Criminal Law]. Author's Abstract of Dissertation of Candidate of Law Sciences. All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Soviet Legislation. (in Russian)
  3. Dodonov, V. N. (2010) Sravnitel'noye pravovedeniye. Obshchaya chast' [Comparative Law. A General Part]. Moscow, Yurlitinform. (in Russian)
  4. Esakov, G. A., Krylova, N. E. & Serebrennikova, A. V. (2011) Ugolovnoye pravo zarubezhnykh stran [The Criminal Law of Foreign Countries]. Moscow, Prospekt. (in Russian)
  5. Esakov, G.A. (2007) Ucheniye o prestuplenii v stranakh sem'i obshchego prava [The Doctrine of Crime in the Common Law Family]. Author's Abstract of Dissertation of Doctor of Legal Sciences. Kutafin Moscow State Law University. (in Russian)
  6. Glucklich, A. (1982) Karma and Social Justice in the Criminal Code of Manu. Contributions to Indian Sociology. 16 (1), 59–78.
  7. Kaspshak, E. (2016) Osnovy ugolovnogo musul'manskogo prava [Foundations of Criminal Islamic Law]. Saint Petersburg, Alef-Press. (in Russian)
  8. Kozochkin, I. D. (2007) Ugolovnoye pravo SSHA: uspekhi i problemy reformirovaniya [Criminal Law of USA: Successes and Problems of Reforming]. Saint Petersburg, Yuridicheskiy Tsentr Press. (in Russian)
  9. Krasheninnikova, N. A. & Trikoz, E. N. (2017) Ugolovnyy kodeks Indii 1860 goda: istoriya sozdaniya i kharakternyye cherty [The Criminal Code of India in 1860: the History of Creation and Characteristic Features]. Proceedings of Higher Education Institutions. Pravovedenie. (4), 183–206. (in Russian)
  10. Kolsky, E. (2005) Codification and the Rule of Colonial Difference: Criminal Procedure in British India. Law and History Review. 23 (3), 631–683. Available from: doi: 10.1017/S0738248000000596.
  11. Nikiforov, B. S. & Reshetnikov, F. M. (1990) Sovremennoye amerikanskoye ugolovnoye pravo [The Modern American Criminal Law]. Moscow, Nauka. (in Russian)
  12. Pollock, F. & Maitland, F. W. (1898) The History of English Law before the time of Edward I. Vol. II. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  13. Ratanlal, R. & Dhirajlal, K. T. (1999) The Indian Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), with exhaustive notes, comments, case-law references. New Delhi, Wadhwa International.
  14. Rushby, K. (2003) Children of Kali: Through India in Search of Bandits, the Thug Cult and the British Raj. London, Walker & Company.
  15. Schwarz, H. (2010) Constructing the Criminal Tribe in Colonial India: Acting Like a Thief. Chichester, Chicester, United Kingdom, Wiley-Blackwell. Available from: doi: 10.1002/9781444317336.
  16. Shahdeen, M. (1994) The Transformation of Colonial Perceptions into Legal Norms: Legislating for Crime and Punishment in Bengal, 1790's to 1820's. London, SOAS.
  17. Shulzhenko, N. A. (1982) Otvetstvennost' za predvaritel'nuyu prestupnuyu deyatel'nost' po anglo-amerikanskomu ugolovnomu pravu [Responsibility for Preliminary Criminal Activity in Anglo-American Criminal Law]. The Dissertation of Candidate of Legal Sciences. All-USSR Correspondence Institute of Law. (in Russian)
  18. Sinha, N. (2008) Mobility, Control and Criminality in Early Colonial India, 1760s–1850s. Indian Economic Social History Review. 45 (1), 1–33. Available from: doi: 10.1177/001946460704500101.
  19. Smith, J. C. & Hogan, B. (1996) Criminal Law. London, Butterworths.
  20. Thornton, E. (1837) Illustrations of the History and Practices of the Thugs, and Notices of Some of the Proceedings of the Government of India, for the Suppression of the Crime of Thuggee. London, W.H. Allen and Co.
  21. Woerkens, M. van (2002) The Strangled Traveler: Colonial Imaginings and the Thugs of India. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.
  22. Yang, A. A. (ed.) (1985). Crime and Criminality in British India. Tucson, Arizona, University of Arizona Press.

Copyright (c) 2018 Krasheninnikova N.A., Trikoz E.N.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies