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ACCUSED PERSONS OF UNSOUND MIND

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ACCUSED PERSONS OF UNSOUND MIND
By: Mr.M. GOVINDARAJAN
September 23, 2019
All Articles by: Mr.M. GOVINDARAJAN       View Profile
  • Contents

Act of a person of unsound mind

Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code (‘IPC’ for short) provides that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.

Crucial time

Section 84 of the IPC provides that the benefit is available only after it is proved that at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the Act he was doing, or that even he did not know it, it was either wrong or contrary to law then this section must be applied.  The crucial point of time for deciding whether the benefit of this should be given or not, is the material time when the offence takes place.

In SHRIKANT ANANDRAO BHOSALE VERSUS STATE OF MAHARASHTRA’- 2002 (9) TMI 883 - SUPREME COURT the Supreme Court held that when a plea of legal insanity is set up, the Court has to consider at the time of commission of the offence of the accused, by reason of unsoundness of mind, was incapable of knowing the nature of the act o that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law.  The crucial point of time for considering the state of mind of the accused is the time when the offence was committed.  Whether the accused was in such a state of unsound mind as to be entitled to the benefit of section 84, can only be established from the circumstances which preceded, attended and followed the crime.

Burden of proof

In STATE OF RAJASTHAN VERSUS SHERA RAM @ VISHNU DUTTA - 2011 (12) TMI 729 - SUPREME COURT  the Supreme Court held that a person alleged to be suffering from any mental disorder cannot be exempted from criminal liability ipso facto.  The onus would be on the accused to prove by expert evidence that he is suffering from such mental disorder or mental condition that he could not be expected to be aware of the consequences of his act.  Once a person is found to be suffering from mental disorder or mental deficiency, which takes with its ambit hallucinations, dementia, loss of memory and self control, at all relevant times by way of appropriate documentary and oral evidence, the person concerned would be entitled to seek resort to the general exceptions from criminal liability.

In ‘Thakkar v. State of Madhya Pradesh’ – 1971 SCC (Cri) 139 the Supreme Court held that there is a rebuttable presumption that the accused was not insane, when he committed the crime, in the sense laid down by section 84 of IPC, the accused may rebut it by placing before the Court all the relevant evidence – oral, documentary, circumstantial, but the burden of proof upon him is no higher than what rests upon a party to civil proceedings.

The doctrine of proof in the context of the plea of insanity was stated in ‘Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat’ – 1964 (3) TMI 106 - SUPREME COURT

  • The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has committed the offence with the requisite mens rea, and the burden of proving that always rests on the prosecution from the beginning to the end of the trial.
  • There is a rebuttable presumption that the accused was not insane, when he committed the crime, in the sense laid down by section 84 of the IPC; the accused may rebut it by placing before the Court all the relevant evidence, oral, documentary and circumstantial, but the burden of proof upon him is no higher than that rests upon a party to civil proceedings.
  • Even if the accused was not able to establish conclusively that he was insane at the time he committed the offence, the evidence placed before the court by the accused or by the prosecution may raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Court as regards one or more of the ingredients of the offence, including mens rea of the accused and in that case the court would entitled to acquit the accused on the ground that the general burden of proof resting on that prosecution was not discharged.

Standard of proof

In BAPU @ GAJRAJ SINGH VERSUS STATE OF RAJASTHAN2007 (6) TMI 557 - SUPREME COURT, the Supreme Court prescribed the standard of proof to get exemption from section 84.  The standard to be applied is whether according to the ordinary standard, adopted by reasonable men, the act was right or wrong.  The mere fact that an accused is conceited, odd irascible and his brain is not quite all right, or that the physical and mental ailments from which he suffered had rendered his intellect weak and had affected his emotions and will, or that he had committed certain unusual acts, in the past or that he was liable to recurring fits of insanity at short intervals, or that he was subject to getting epileptic fits but there was nothing abnormal in his behavior or that his behavior was queer, cannot be sufficient to attract the application of section 84.

Defence of insanity

 The defence of insanity can be inferred from the acts committed by the accused.  It would be dangerous to admit the defence of insanity upon arguments derived merely from the character of the crime.  It is only unsoundness of mind which naturally impairs the cognitive faculties of the mind that can for a ground of exemption from criminal liability.

In Sheralli Walli Mohamed v. State of Maharashtra’ - 1972 (8) TMI 144 - SUPREME COURT the Supreme Court held that the mere fact that no motive has been proved why the accused murdered his wife and child or the fact he made no attempt to run away when the door was broken open would not indicate that he was insane or that he did not have necessary mens rea for the offence.  Mere abnormality of mind or partial delusion, irresistible impulses or compulsive behavior of a psychopath affords no protection under section 84.

In ‘BAPU @ GAJRAJ SINGH VERSUS STATE OF RAJASTHAN2007 (6) TMI 557 - SUPREME COURT, the Supreme Court held that a lucid interval of an insane person is not merely a cessation of the violent symptoms of the disorder, but a restoration of the faculties of mind sufficiently to enable the person soundly to judge the act; but the expression does not necessarily mean complete or perfect restoration of the material faculties to their original condition.  So, if there is such restoration, the person concerned can do the act with such reason, memory and judgment as to make it a legal act; but merely a cessation of the violent symptoms of the disorder is not sufficient.

Exoneration

In ‘SIDDHAPAL KAMALA YADAV Versus STATE OF MAHARASHTRA - 2008 (10) TMI 706 - SUPREME COURT the Supreme Court held that under section 84 IPC a person is exonerated from the liability for doing an act on the ground of unsoundness of mind if he, at the time of doing the act, is either incapable of knowing-          

  •  Was the nature of the act; or
  • that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.

The accused is protected only when, on account of insanity, he was incapable of knowing the nature of the Act, but also when he did not know either that the act was wrong or contrary to law, although he might know the nature of the act itself.  He is, however, not protected if he knew that what he was doing was wrong, even if he did not know that it was contrary to law, and also if he knew that what he was doing was contrary to law even though he did not know that it was wrong.  The prosecution has not to establish these facts.

Benefit of doubt

In ‘Vijayee Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh’ – 1990 (4) TMI 300 - SUPREME COURT the Supreme Court held that if from the materials on record, a reasonable doubt is created in the mind of the Court with regard to mental condition of the accused at the time of occurrence, he shall be entitled to the benefit of benefit of the reasonable doubt and consequent acquittal.

In ‘Devidas Loka Rathod v. State of Maharashtra’ – 2018 (7) TMI 2049 - SUPREME COURT the Supreme Court held that the appellant has been able to create sufficient doubt in the mind of the Court that he is entitled to the benefit of exception under section 84 IPC because of the preponderance of his medical condition at the time of occurrence, as revealed from the materials and evidence on record.  The prosecution cannot be said to have established its case beyond all reasonable doubt.  The appellant is therefore entitled to the benefit of doubt and consequent acquittal. 

 

By: Mr.M. GOVINDARAJAN - September 23, 2019

 

Discussions to this article

 

Unsound person can be judged based on their behaviour. On the contrary the man with sound mind is difficult to judge as to what will be his course of action. A husband deceiving wife and dumps her without giving proper divorce is also a unsound person. He has good job, good status in society but dumps his wife. Is he of sound mind?. No.

Nice article on this subject. Thanks.

By: Ganeshan Kalyani
Dated: 23/09/2019

Thought provoking and an eye opener article by Dr.M.Govindarajan, Sir. The views of Sh.Ganeshan Kalyani Ji are correct and are applicable to all whosoever may be. This also reminisce me of Mahatma Gandhi's words. Once he said, "Whenever there is a quarrel between the two persons, both are at fault. If one of the two has talking sense, there would not be quarrel and half the courts would be empty.(burden-free)."

For example ; I have seen highly qualified people fighting for parking only. It makes no difference if anyone park his car left or right to accommodate the other person. But real cause behind parking is false ego.It is ego clash. If one of the two is humble and has sense of talking (mind tone), both would not quarrel. What to see ! People murder on parking dispute. Such people are also of unsound mind.

By: KASTURI SETHI
Dated: 24/09/2019

 

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