By Vidushi Singh, pursuing B.B.A.LL.B (3rd year) from Banasthali Vidyapith University, Jaipur(Rajasthan).
Insanity as Defence under the criminal law of India always remained an unsolved problem. Here a question arises, whether a person who is insane or mad or we can say a person who is incapable of knowing the difference between the right and wrong will be liable for the act which is criminal in nature? Is that person is having defence under the criminal jurisprudence of law? As there is a famous maxim i.e., “Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea,” which talks about the An act does not make any person guilty of the offence unless there is a presence of guilty mind. So, to commit any criminal offence, mens rea needs to be there. So, insanity as defence under the law protects and prevents the person who is of unsound mind or incapable of knowing the nature and the consequences of the act that is committed by him. Medical Insanity is not enough to constitute a person that he is insane or of unsound mind. Legal insanity needs to be proved that he is insane and is not competent of understanding the nature of the crime. Unsoundness of mind denotes only the legal insanity of a person; and that person will be having the benefit of the defence of insanity under IPC.
Originality of the Law of Insanity:-
Test of Insanity:- From time to time various types of tests have been done to declare the kind and degree of insanity which are given to the person of unsound mind as a defence against the offence. But the most important test that distinguish “the right & wrong” devised in Mc’ Naughten’s case. The rules which are given in M’naughten formulated the law on Insanity. So, this view was put forward by the R vs M’Naughten case in which the accused is having some delusions that whatever problem he is facing is all because of a person and in order to kill him he took up his gun but mistakenly shot his close person. When the trial of the case begins, the accused tooks the plea of Insanity. The Court accepted the plea and acquits him.
This case became a matter of discussion and a debate was held in the House of Lords so that certainty should be impose on the insanity laws. Five questions were asked to the 15 Judges by the Special Committee & answers to that question form the M’Naughten rules. These rules are:-
All are presumed to be same, until contrary be proved for the satisfaction of the Court.
In order to claim the defence of the Insanity, that person have to clearly show that at the time of the commitment of that act, he was suffering from the defect or any other mental illness.
He have to prove to the Court that because of his defect, he is not having the ability and capacity to know the nature and the quality of the act he was doing.
At the time of the act the accused don’t know that whatever he was doing was wrong and that person is having no guilty intention behind that act.
Insanity as Defence under the Indian Law:-
Defence of Insanity under the Indian Law is prescribed under the Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. According to our ancient period of law, it states that a person who is a child & a person who is insane are not liable for the liability of any criminal offence. English Law also states that a mad man is being deprived of his free will. He is having no free will or that person is not having the capacity to know the nature of his act. Basically, Section 84 does not uses the term “insanity”. Actually, it make use of the more comprehensive term i.e., unsoundness mind of a person. Section 84 was formed on the basis of M’Naughten rule on insanity.
Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, deals with Act of a person of unsound mind. It means that nothing is an offence which is committed by any person who is having a defect or he is of unsound mind, is incapable of understanding the nature and the consequences of that act, or committed what is either wrong or contrary to law because of his mental illness. It states that a defence will be given to that person who is of unsound mind to any criminal charge. Because any person who is having any mental illness or is insane; is deprived of his free will. To commit a crime, mens rea needs to be there but a insane person is deprived of it.
Essential Ingredients of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code,1860:-
To claim the defence of insanity, following below ingredients are to be established:-
Act must be done by a person who is of unsound mind.
At the time of commitment of the act, the accused was in the state of unsoundness of mind.
Due to his unsound mind, the accused was incapable of understanding the nature and the consequences of his act or what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.
Due to his unsoundness of mind, such capacity must be there by that reason.
If a person is having a defect or disease which is affecting his mind, making him incapable to know the difference between the right and the wrong, will be entitled to enjoy the benefit of this defence. That person can take a plea and if it accepted by the Court, then he will be set acquitted. Moreover, Insanity in law differs markedly from the medical concept of Insanity. It is not necessary that every form of insanity or madness will be provided the benefit of this defence.
Distinction between Legal Insanity and Medical Insanity:-
Every mental disease cannot exempts any person from the liability of a criminal offence. Actually, Section 84 of the IPC talks about and is concerned only to the Legal Insanity. It is not concerned with the Medical Insanity of a person. So, if a person who is suffering from any Legal Insanity, only then he will be entitled to enjoy the benefits of this Section 84 under the criminal law.
These are the following types of person who may be said be of Unsound Mind:-
Idiot:- Idiot is such a person who cannot count up to ten numeric or even incapable of telling the names of the week or his family members or parents name.
Lunatic:- A person who behaves differently than a normal person or does stupid or crazy things and sometimes do dangerous things as he is incapable of knowing the nature of his act.
Non Compos Mentis (not of sound mind):- If a person becomes Non Compos Mentis due to regular illlness, he is immune from the liability of any criminal offence.
Disease of mind:- At the time of commission of any act, if a person is suffering from any disease of mind; that person will be exempted from charge of that offense.
Insanity brought on by intoxication.
The main difference between them is that Legal Insanity is that extent of insanity or unsoundness of mind where a person is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or incapable of understanding the fact that whatever act he has done or doing is wrong or contrary to the law. Whereas Medical Insanity is that in which a person is totally capable of knowing the nature of the act and also capable of knowing whatever he is doing is wrong or contrary to law.
Legal Insanity needs to be prove to get an exception under Section 84 of IPC. So, unsoundness of mind must exist at the time of commission of any offence under the Section 84 of the IPC.
Burden of Proof lies on whom in cases of Insanity?
So, when any person is accused of any offence, the burden of proving that case of accused comes within the general exceptions of the Indian Penal Code,1860. In short, to prove burden of proof in cases of Insanity lies on the accused itself that he falls under that exception which is provided under Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act and this section only applies to the criminal cases.
Incapacity of understanding the nature of the act:- Under Section 84 of the IPC to claim defence under this, it must be proved before the Court of Justice that at the time of the commission of the act, the accused is totally insane or is of unsound mind in each and every possible way and that insanity makes him incapable of knowing the results of his act.
Incapacity to know right or wrong:- In order to enjoy the benefit of the this defence under Section 84 of the IPC, it is not necessary to fulfil both the requirements that is mentioned under this section. If a person is capable of knowing the nature of his act but is incapable of understanding what is wrong or contrary to law can still get the defence under this section. This is given in those cases where a person is suffering from partial insanity.
To prove insanity, there are two methods:-
Medical Evidence:- When the police arrests a person and handover him for the medical examination to determine his Insanity.
Circumstantial Evidence:- Under this two conducts are given:-
Prior Conduct of the Offence:- Medical History, No prior plans of committing the offence, No accomplices, Act must be committed in open i.e., No Secrecy will be enough to prove Insanity.
Subsequent Conduct of the Offence:- To prove Insanity, accused didn’t absconded after committing the crime and his behaviour or conduct after his arrest.
Important cases which shows how the Defence of Insanity is proved before the courts:-
Ashok Dattatreya vs State of Maharashtra:- In this case, the accused was a labour and he killed his sister-in-law and tried to kill his mom; due to some quarrel over money. After 15 days from the commission of the offence, he absconded for about 3 months. He started working as a labour in a village. Then the trial of the case begins, he came there and took a plea of insanity. The Court rejected his plea by stating that your conduct at the time and after the incident therefore wholly disproves the plea of insanity. That means you are capable of knowing that you have done an act which is wrong or contrary to law.
Ratan Lal vs State of M.P.:- In this case, accused sets fire to the grass lying in the open field. He was spotted by a person at that time. On being asked why he had done it, the accused replied that “I burnt it and do whatever you want.” When he got arrested and examined by the psychiatrist, reports determined that the accused was a insane. When the trial begins, he tooks the plea of Insanity and the court accepted his plea as the behaviour and conduct of him indicates that the appellant was insane within the meaning of Section 84 of the IPC. He was acquitted by the Court.
So, if a person of unsound mind can also get defence of his insanity at the time of commission of the act under Section 84 of the IPC. Insanity as a defence remained an integral part of the Criminal jurisprudence. The Insanity as Defence is hardly ever successful because it is hard to prove legal insanity of a person. So, there is a need of well defined definition of medical insanity so that no confusion or will be brought up before the accused to prove his legal insanity and medical insanity. At last, Section 84 of the IPC needs to be amended sooner in order to make the defence available to the accused.