This Article is written by Ananya Verma, student of Ramaiah College of Law.


The criminal law punishes not only completed crimes but also short of completion or incomplete crimes. The category of incompleted crimes is called “inchoate crime” or “inchoate offence”. The inchoate offence addressed in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are common law offences of attempt, criminal conspiracy, and abetment.

Meaning and scope of inchoate offences

Inchoate has come from the Latin word- ‘Inchoate’ means ‘begun’. The word ‘inchoate’ literally means ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘unfinished’ and the term, “inchoate offence” refers to acts engaged towards the commission of a criminal act, or which amount to indirect participation in a criminal act. It simply means the offences which are incomplete and it signifies the acts which are just close to the commission of the offence.

Under criminal law, there are four stages of the commission of any crime:

  • Formation of a mental element or mens rea.
  • Preparation for the commission of the crime.
  • Acting on the basis of such preparation.
  • Commission of the act resulting in an event punishable by law.

Out of these four stages normally the liability under law exists in the third and the fourth stages only, and the accused is not guilty if his act falls under the first or the second stage .i.e., under the mental stage and the preparatory stage. For example: if A wants to kill B but does not do anything further in this regard he still being in the mental stage is not guilty of any crime. With such intention, if he buys a revolver and gets a license for the same, even then he does not commit a crime because he is still in the preparatory stage.

According to Section 511 of the IPC, only half of the punishment is awarded because the injury is not as great as if that crime had been committed. The two elements mens rea and actus reus, are always necessary to constitute a crime. Where there is only mens rea there is no crime. Though actus reus is necessary to constitute a crime, yet there may be a crime even where those of actus reus that was intended has not been consummated. For example, A shoots at B, but misses the aim, no actus reus is consummated and so there is no murder, however, a crime has been committed. Liability begins only at a stage when the offender has done some act which not only manifests his mens rea but also goes some way carrying it out. These are known as inchoate crimes.

Types of Inchoate offence


The term attempt has nowhere been described in the IPC chapter XXIII titled as of attempts of commit offences does not give any definition of attempt but simply provides for punishment for attempting to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment for life or fine. The term however means the direct movement towards the commission of a crime after necessary preparations have been made. Attempt includes complete, incomplete, and impossible attempts. Complete attempts occur when the perpetrator takes every necessary step in the commission of a crime and yet is unable to commit it. An incomplete attempt occurs when the perpetrator takes some steps towards committing the crime but is stopped by some intervening force outside of their control before they are able to complete the attempt. An impossible attempt occurs when a perpetrator takes steps towards committing a crime, only to realize that there is something in the way making it impossible for the crime to be completed. This would include something like trying to commit murder when the target is already dead.

The Indian penal code 1860, deals with an attempt in three different ways:

  • In some cases the commission of an offence and the attempt to commit it are dealt with in the same section and the extent of punishment is also the same for both. Such provisions are contained in Section 121, 124, 124(A), 125,130,131,152,153A, 161, 162, 163, 165, 196, 198, 200, 213, 239, 240, 241, 251, 385, 387, 389, 391, 394, 395, 397, 459 and 460.
  • In some cases, attempts are treated as a separate offence and are punished accordingly. There are four grave offences, attempts are described separately but side by side with the offence, and specific punishment is prescribed for them. These are: –

– Murder is defined under section 300 penal provision is there in section 302 of the Indian penal code 1860 and attempt to murder under section 307.

– Culpable homicide not amounting to murder is punishable under section 304 and attempt to commit culpable homicide is under Section 308.

– Dacoity with murder is punishable under Section 396 and dacoity with an attempt to cause death is punishable under Section 397. Voluntarily causing hurt in committing a robbery is punishable under Section 394 and attempt to cause grievous hurt in committing a robbery is punishable under Section 397.

  • Provision has been made in Section 511 in respect of those offences which are not covered by the above two categories i.e. which are not otherwise provided for in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


Section 120(A) of the Indian penal code, 1860 deals with the definition of criminal conspiracy. A conspiracy occurs when two or more people agree to commit an illegal act and take some steps toward its completion. Conspiracy is an inchoate crime because it does not require that the illegal act actually have been completed. For example, a group of individuals can be convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary even if the actual burglary never happens. Conspiracy is also an unlike attempt, a defendant can be charged with both conspiracy to commit a crime. The ingredients of this offence are:-

  • That there should be an agreement between the persons who are alleged to conspire.
  • That the agreement should be:

– For doing of an illegal act

– For doing by illegal means an act which may not itself be illegal.


Abetment means inciting the other person to commit an illegal act or omission. Section 107 of IPC, 1860 defines the abetment of a thing. The person who can not commit a crime may however command, encourage or induce a third person to bring it about and be guilty of the offence of Abetment. It involves two essential components of crime .i.e., Actus reus and mens rea. The person who incites the other person to commit that act is known as an abettor and the one who is incited is known as abetted.  The essential ingredients of Abetment are:

  • There must be a minimum of two or more than two persons.
  • They must abet that means an act of one person falls under any of the following three circumstances in relation to another person.

– One person instigate another person, or

– They must engage another person into a conspiracy, or

– One person directly aids the commission of the offence by another person.


We can say that these inchoate crimes are not similar to the other crimes as stated under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 yet are punishable because a criminal attempt not only poses a threat to bodily but also infringes the right to security. Such infringement constitutes, in itself harm that penal law seeks to punish. Criminal liability for an attempt may be justified even in the absence of any harm. An attempt to commit a crime poses no less a threat to the legitimately confined interests of the individuals than does the complete crime. Therefore these offences whose main reason for the establishment was the public interest. The public would think twice before the commission of an offence. Even if they failed to achieve their end goal, they would be prosecuted in a less rigorous but still a fairly manner.


Inchoate offences definition , types , meaning and scope by a text book of Indian Penal Code 1860, by K D Gaur; Available at –

Section 511 of Indian penal code, 1860; Available at –

Section 120(A) of Indian penal code, 1860; Available at – Section 108 of Indian penal code, 1860; Available at –