17. The defence of insanity has been well known in the English Legal System for many centuries. In the earlier times, it was usually advanced as a justification for seeking pardon. Over a period of time, it was used as a complete defence to criminal liability in offences involving mens rea. It is also accepted that insanity in medical terms is distinguishable from legal insanity. In most cases, in India, the defence of insanity seems to be pleaded where the offender is said to be suffering from the disease of Schizophrenia. The plea taken in the present case was also that the appellant was suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia”. The term has been defined in Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology as follows:
“Paranoia is now regarded as a mild form of paranoid schizophrenia. It occurs more in males than in females. The main characteristic of this illness is a well-elaborated delusional system in a personality that is otherwise well preserved. The delusions are of persecutory type. The true nature of this illness may go unrecognized for a long time because the personality is well preserved, and some of these paranoiacs may pass off as a social reformers or founders of queer pseudoreligious sects. The classical picture is rare and generally takes a chronic course. Paranoid Schizophrenia, in the vast majority of case, starts in the fourth decade and develops insidiously. Suspiciousness is the characteristic symptom of the early stage. Ideas of reference occur, which gradually develop into delusions of persecution. Auditory hallucinations follow which in the beginning, start as sound or noises in the ears, but later change into abuses or insults. Delusions are at first indefinite, but gradually they become fixed and definite, to lead the patient to believe that he is persecuted by some unknown person or [23rd Ed. Page 1077] some superhuman agency. He believes that his food is being poisoned, some noxious gases are blown into his room and people are plotting against him to ruin him. Disturbances of general sensation give rise to hallucinations which are attributed to the effects of hypnotism, electricity, wireless telegraphy or atomic agencies. The patient gets very irritated and excited owing to these painful and disagreeable hallucinations and delusions.”
The medical profession would undoubtedly treat the appellant herein as a mentally sick person. However, for the purposes of claiming the benefit of the defence of insanity in law, the appellant would have to prove that his cognitive faculties were so impaired, at the time when the crime was committed, as not to know the nature of the act. Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code recognizes the defence of insanity. It is defined as under:-
“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.”
A bare perusal of the aforesaid section would show that in order to succeed, the appellant would have to prove that by reason of unsoundness of mind, he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act committed by him. In the alternate case, he would have to prove that he was incapable of knowing that he was doing what is either wrong or contrary to law. The aforesaid section clearly gives statutory recognition to the defence of insanity as developed by the Common Law of England in a decision of the House of Lords rendered in the case of R. Vs. Daniel Mc Naughten. In that case, the House of Lords formulated the famous Mc Naughten Rules on the basis of the five questions, which had been referred to them with regard to the defence of insanity. The reference came to be made in a case where Mc Naughten was charged with the murder by shooting of Edward Drummond, who was the Pvt. Secretary of the then Prime Minister of England Sir Robert Peel. The accused Mc Naughten produced medical evidence to prove that, he was not, at the time of committing the act, in a sound state of mind. He claimed that he was suffering from an 2 [1843 RR 59: 8ER 718(HL)] insane delusion that the Prime Minister was the only reason for all his problems. He had also claimed that as a result of the insane delusion, he mistook Drummond for the Prime Minister and committed his murder by shooting him. The plea of insanity was accepted and Mc Naughten was found not guilty, on the ground of insanity. The aforesaid verdict became the subject of debate in the House of Lords. Therefore, it was determined to take the opinion of all the judges on the law governing such cases. Five questions were subsequently put to the Law Lords. The questions as well as the answers delivered by Lord Chief Justice Tindal were as under:-
“Q.1 What is the law respecting alleged crimes committed by persons afflicted with insane delusion in respect of one or more particular subjects or persons: as, for instance, where at the time of the commission of the alleged crime the accused knew he was acting contrary to law, but did the act complained of with a view, under the influence of insane delusion, of redressing a revenging some supposed grievance or injury, or of producing some public benefit?
Answer: “Assuming that your lordships’ inquiries are confined to those persons who labour under such partial delusions only, and are not in other respects insane, we are of opinion, that, notwithstanding the party did the act complained of with a view, under the influence of insane delusion, of redressing or revenging some supposed grievance or injury, or of producing some public benefit, he is nevertheless punishable, according to the nature of the crime committed, if he knew, at the time of committing such crime, that he was acting contrary to law, by which expression we understand your lordships to mean the law of the land.
Q.2. What are the proper questions to be submitted to the jury when a person alleged to be afflicted with insane delusion respecting one or more particular subjects or persons, is charged with the commission of a crime (murder, for example), and insanity is set up as a defence?
Q.3. In what terms ought the question to be left to the jury as to the prisoner’s state of mind at the time when the act was committed?
Answers – to the second and third questions That the jury ought to be told in all cases that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that, to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong. The mode of putting the latter part of the question to the jury on these occasions has generally been, whether the accused, at the time of doing the act, knew the difference between right and wrong, which mode, though rarely, if ever, leading to any mistake with the jury, is not, as we conceive, so accurate when put generally, and in the abstract, as when put as to the party’s knowledge of right and wrong in respect to the very act with which he is charged. If the question were to be put as to the knowledge of the accused, solely and exclusively with reference to the law of the land, it might tend to confound the jury, by inducing them to believe that an actual knowledge of the law of the land was essential in order to lead to a conviction, whereas the law is administered upon the principle that every one must be taken conclusively to know it without proof that he does know it. If the accused was conscious that the act was one which he ought not to do, and if that act was at the same time contrary to the law of the land, he is punishable; and the usual course, therefore, has been to leave the question to the jury, whether the party accused had a sufficient degree of reason to know that he was doing an act that was wrong: and this course, we think, is correct, accompanied with such observations and explanations as the circumstances of each particular case may require.
Q.4. If a person under an insane delusion as to the existing facts commits and offence in consequence thereof, is he thereby excused?
Answer: The answer must, of course, depend on the nature of the delusion, but making the same assumpt ion as we did before, that he labours under such partial delusion only, and is not in other respects insane, we think he must be considered in the same situation as to responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real. For example, if, under the influence of his delusion, he supposes another man to be in the act of attempting to take away his life, and he kills that man, as he supposes in selfdefence, he would be exempted from punishment. If his delusion was that the deceased had inflicted a serious injury to his character and fortune, and he killed him in revenge for such supposed injury, he would be liable to punishment.
Q.5. Can a medical man, conversant with the disease of insanity, who never saw the prisoner previously to the trial, but who was present during the whole trial, and the examination of all the witnesses, be asked his opinion as to the state of the prisoner’s mind at the time of the commission of the alleged crime, or his opinion whether the prisoner was conscious, at the time of doing the act, that he was acting contrary to law, or whether he was labouring under any and what delusion at the time?
Answer: We think the medical man, under the circumstances supposed, cannot in strictness be asked his opinion in the terms above stated, because each of those questions involves the determination of the truth of the facts deposed to, which it is for the jury to decide; and the questions are not mere questions upon a matter of science, in which case such evidence is admissible. But where the facts are admitted or not disputed, and the question becomes substantially one of science only, it may be convenient to allow the question to be put in that general form, though the same cannot be insisted on as a matter of right.”
A comparison of answers to question no. 2 and 3 and the provision contained in Section 84 of the IPC would clearly indicate that the Section is modeled on the aforesaid answers.
18. This Court has on several occasions examined the standard of proof that is required to be discharged by the appellant to get the benefit of Section 84 IPC. We may make a reference here to the observation made in Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar Vs. State of 3 [Archbold 2010 Ed. Pg. No. 1880-1881] Gujarat. The relevant aspects of the law and the material provisions relating to the plea of insanity were noticed and considered as follows:-
It is a fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that an accused is presumed to be innocent and, therefore, the burden lies on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution, therefore, in a case of homicide shall prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused caused death with the requisite intention described in Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code. This general burden never shifts and it always rests on the prosecution. But, as Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code provides that nothing is an offence if the accused at the time of doing that act, by reason of unsoundness of mind was incapable of knowing the nature of his act or what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law. This being an exception, under Section 105 of the Evidence Act the burden of proving the existence of circumstances bringing the case within the said exception lies on the accused; and the court shall presume the absence of such circumstances. Under Section 105 of the Evidence Act, read with the definition of “shall presume” in Section 4 thereof, the court shall regard the absence of such circumstances as proved unless, after considering the matters before it, it believes that said circumstances existed or their existence was so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that they did exist. To put it in other words, the accused will have to rebut the presumption that such circumstances did not exist, by placing material before the court sufficient to make it consider the existence of the said circumstances so probable that a prudent man would act upon them. The accused has to satisfy the standard of a “prudent man”. If the material placed before the court such, as, oral and documentary evidence, presumptions, admissions or even the prosecution evidence, satisfies the test of “prudent man”, the accused will have discharged his burden. The evidence so placed may not be sufficient to discharge the burden under Section 105 of the Evidence Act, but it may raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of a judge as regards one or other of the necessary ingredients of the offence itself. It may, for instance, raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge whether the accused had the requisite intention laid down in Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code. If the judge has such reasonable doubt, he has to acquit the accused, for in that event the prosecution will have failed to prove conclusively the guilt of the accused. There is no conflict between the general burden, which is always on the prosecution and which never shifts, and the special burden that rests on the accused to make out his defence of insanity.”
Thereafter, upon further consideration, this Court defined the doctrine of burden of proof in the context of the plea of insanity in the following propositions:-
“(1) The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had 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.
(2) There is a rebuttable presumption that the appellant was not insane, when he committed the crime, in the sense laid down by Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code: the appellant may rebut it by placing before the court all the relevant evidence – oral, documentary or circumstantial, but the burden of proof upon him is no higher than that rests upon a party to civil proceedings.
(3) Even if the appellant 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 appellant 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 appellant and in that case the court would be entitled to acquit the appellant on the ground that the general burden of proof resting on the prosecution was not discharged.”
19. It is also a settled proposition of law that the crucial point of time for ascertaining the existence of circumstances bringing the case within the purview of Section 84 is the time when the offence is committed. We may notice here the observations made by this Court in the case of Ratan Lal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh. In Paragraph 2 of the aforesaid judgment, it is held as follows:-
“It is now well-settled that the crucial point of time at which unsoundness of mind should be established is the time when the crime is actually committed and the burden of proving this lies on the appellant.” 5 [1970 (3) SCC 533]
20. The High Court on examination of the evidence before it, came to the conclusion that the appellant had failed to prove that he was suffering from such mental illness that would enable him to take benefit of Section 84 IPC.
21. The High Court took into consideration the totality of the circumstances and came to the conclusion that there was no evidence indicating that appellant was suffering from mental illness at the crucial time. The only evidence placed on record shows that the appellant had been treated in a Psychiatric Hospital for 13 days in the year 1985 even at that time the doctor had diagnosed the disease as psychotic disorder. The record did not indicate that the patient was suffering from such mental disability which incapacitated him to know the nature of the act that he had committed. The High Court further observed that there was no evidence to indicate that the appellant suffered from mental illness post 1985. The High Court, in our opinion, rightly concluded that the appellant was capable of knowing the nature of the act and the consequences thereof on the date of the alleged incident.
Whilst he had brutally and callously committed the murder of his wife, he did not cause any hurt or discomfort to the child. Rather he made up his mind to insure that the child be put into proper care and custody after the murder. The conduct of the appellant before and after the incident was sufficient to negate any notion that he was mentally insane, so as not to be possessed of the necessary mens rea, for committing the murder of his wife.
1. Unsoundness of mind and criminal liability: Supreme Court explains