The Indian Penal Code and its ole in a Criminal Conspiracy: An Analysis of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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ABSTRACT

The IPC or the Indian Penal Code is a document that enlists every case or punishment that a person committing a crime is liable to be charged with. It covers all Indians with the exception of the military or the armed forces. With regards to a criminal conspiracy, Section 120 A of the Indian Penal Code discusses and defines the aforementioned topic while Section 120 B of the IPC lays down the punishment for the same. Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, provides us with a perfect example of how the absence of proper laws and a defined judicial structure can pave the way for people to take law into their own hands and conspire to kill someone more successful than them. This article examines the importance of the Indian Penal Code, focusing on Sections 120 A and 120 B, and how the IPC helps prevent or at least bring the offenders to justice in a criminal conspiracy case, with reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

KEYWORDS

Indian Penal Code, Criminal Conspiracy, Section 120 A, Section 120 B, Julius Caesar

ANALYSIS

A conspiracy, by definition, is a confidential plan or agreement between a group of persons, also known as conspirators, for a harmful or illegal act, usually influenced by political motivation, while maintaining secrecy from the public and the people affected by their plan. 

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The Indian Penal Code befittingly defines criminal conspiracy under Section 120 A, which states that a criminal conspiracy occurs when a group of people agrees to do or cause to be done an illegal act or an act by illegal means. Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code defines the punishment conspirators might face for a conspiracy. It states that when conspirators commit a crime, which for example calls for a death sentence, each conspirator is equally liable to be rewarded with the death sentence. 

The primary plot in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar gives us a perfect attestation to why stringent laws against conspiracy are crucial, both for the upliftment of justice and the maintenance of law and order. In the play, the central character, Julius Caesar, is a popular and successful general who returns from a triumphant victory after defeating the sons of Pompey, his arch-rival. Caesar’s immense popularity, both among the nobles and the general public of Rome, is chastised by fellow general Caius Cassius as he is submerged in jealousy. Marcus Brutus on the other hand fears that Caesar’s increasing popularity might lead him into turning the Roman Republic into an empire. Being a friend of Caesar, he faces a dilemma as he considers Caesar to be one of his closest aides while he also cannot turn a blind eye to his duty for the Republic. Cassius uses the situation to his advantage and plants false evidence that turns Brutus’ fear into a fact. Hence, Brutus joins Cassius, Casca, and other members of the Senate in a conspiracy to lure and murder Caesar. While Cassius is solely motivated by emotion and jealousy, Brutus joins his cause for a political reason. All of the conspirators lure Caesar to the Senate on the Ides or 15th of March and stab him to death, with Brutus giving the final blow. As Brutus stabs Caesar, he utters the famous sentence “Et tu, Brute?” which translates to “You too, Brutus?”. This gives us a befitting idea of the relationship between Caesar and Brutus and how Caesar always considered him to be a close friend. The conspirators then go on to justify the killing of Caesar in front of the Roman Public, wherein the people initially side with Brutus’ cause. But when Mark Antony, Caesar’s protégé, gives his speech, he reveals Caesar’s will and the fact that he relinquished the crown thrice after being offered to become Emperor. This infuriates the crowd and they banish Brutus and Cassius out of Rome. Brutus and Cassius retaliate by waging a war against Mark Antony and Caesar’s great-nephew Octavius. When they start losing, Cassius orders his confidante to kill him and Brutus commits suicide. The play ends with Mark Antony and Octavius ruling Rome.

The aforementioned events in the play could have been avoided or could have taken a more ethical turn, if necessary, laws and an established judicial system were present in the Roman Republic. The presence of laws like the Indian Penal Code has instilled fear among people, as they know that their actions will have consequences if found to be illegal. Brutus, Cassius, and their supporters didn’t have this fear to restrain them, hence they were free to conspire against a contemporary of theirs. Laws like Section 120 A and Section 120 B of the IPC would clearly prohibit and punish perpetrators who conspire and, in this case, Brutus, Cassius, and their followers, if there was proper implementation of such laws in the Republic. The conspirators would also have been unable to justify their killing in front of a crowd if laws like Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code and the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution were present in the Roman Republic. It can therefore be observed that laws like the Indian Penal Code, if present during the Roman Republic, would have been essential in preventing the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, thereby also preventing war and Rome’s eventual transformation from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.

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The play portrays Brutus to be a man of principles and likable. Brutus, being a righteous man did what he felt was necessary for his country. He was also tricked into believing that Caesar would name himself Emperor. This leads us to a very important question, that is, whether Brutus was to be blamed equally like Cassius and the others for the conspiracy against Caesar. The judgment for Yash Pal Mittal v. State of Punjab (1977) gives us an answer. The judgment includes the statement “That an accused himself is not charged with the ultimate offense which is the object of the criminal conspiracy is beside the point in a charge under s.120B I.P.C.” Hence, we find that Brutus, even if his reasons were different, was to be held equally liable in the conspiracy against Caesar as defined in the interpretation of Section 120 B of the IPC in the aforementioned judgment.

In the case of Baliya vs. State of M.P. (2012), the judgment included the following statement

that read “The offense of criminal conspiracy has its foundation in an agreement to commit an offense or to achieve a lawful object through unlawful means. Such a conspiracy would rarely be hatched in the open and, therefore, direct evidence to establish the same may not be always forthcoming. Proof or otherwise of such conspiracy is a matter of inference and the Court in drawing such an inference must consider whether the basic facts.”  With reference to the statement above, it is clear that most of the criminal conspiracies are hatched in a secretive manner and it is the Court that analyses the conspiracy using appropriate laws and brings justice to its victims. Hence, the Indian Penal Code and its Sections, particularly Section 120 A and Section 120 B are critical in preventing or punishing the conspirators in a conspiracy. If laws like these were present during the time of the Roman Republic, one of its greatest failures- the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, would not have occurred. 


 

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