section 84- legal insanity read with section 328-339 Cr.pc
Under law, every man is presumed to be sane and assumed to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his acts unless the contrary is proved. Every person is presumed to know the natural consequences of his act. Similarly, every person is also presumed to know the law. The prosecution does not have to establish these facts.
On 6th March 1843, there was a discussion in the House of Lords, and Lord Chancellor put five questions to a panel of His Majesty's judges. The five questions were replied on 19th June 1843, and they were construed as McNaughton's rules. The following are the main points of McNaughton's rules:
1.Every man is to be presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved.
2.An insane person is punishable “if he knows” at the time of crime that what he is doing is either wrong or contrary to law.
3.To establish a defense on insanity, the accused, by defect of reason or disease of mind, is not in a position to know the nature and consequences. If accused was conscious of the act which is one he ought not to do and act at the same time is contrary to law of the land , he is punishable. The test is not in regard to the abstract , but in regard to act committed in particular circumstances with respect to accused's power of reasoning to differentiate between right and wrong.
4.The insane person must be considered in the same situation as to responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real. He will be under same degree of responsibility as the facts he imagined them to be. Suppose a man due to unsoundness of mind hallucinates about a state of affair where he thinks that another man is trying to attack him . Consequently , due to such hallucination he kills the person in self defence, he will be under same degree of responsibility .
5.It was the jury's role to decide whether the defendant was insane.
McNaughton's rules stressed on “understandability of right and wrong” and “intellectual” rather than a moral or affective definition dominated in its formulation. Lack of control and irresistible drives or impulses were neglected. In essence, it was the “test of knowing” or “test of right and wrong.” If McNaughton's rules had been applied to McNaughton at the time of trial, he could not have been found guilty on the grounds of insanity.
To add to mc naughten rules there are other points which are used to consider the position :
1.The relevant point of time to decide the unsoundness of mind is "at the time of doing the act" , to determine that , the conduct of the accused both before and after the crime can be considered.
2.History of Insanity including medical history can be taken into account.
3. Absence of motive , secrecy , accomplices , arrangement etc are relevant . Its legal insanity which is within the ambit of section 84 , hence , partial delusion , uncontrolled impulses are no defences under section 84.
Section 84 IPC embodies McNaughton rules as follows: “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 the law.”
There are four kinds of persons who may be said to be non compos mentis (not of sound mind), i.e., (1) an idiot; (2) one made non compos by illness (3) a lunatic or a mad man and (4.) one who is drunk. An idiot is one who is of non-sane memory from his birth, by a perpetual infirmity, without lucid intervals; and those are said to be idiots who cannot count twenty, or tell the days of the week, or who do not know their fathers or mothers, or the like, (See Archbold's Criminal Pleadings, Evidence and Practice, 35th Edn. pp.31-32; Russell on Crimes and Misdemeanors, 12th Edn. Vol., p.105; 1 Hala's Pleas of the Grown 34). A person made non compos men-us by illness is excused in criminal cases from such acts as are- committed while under the influence of his disorder, (See 1 Hale PC 30). A lunatic is one who is afflicted by mental disorder only at certain periods and vicissitudes, having intervals of reason, (See Russell, 12 Edn. Vol. 1, p. 103; Hale PC 31). Madness is permanent. Lunacy and madness are spoken of as acquired insanity, and idiocy as natural insanity.
Section 84 embodies the fundamental maxim of criminal law, i.e., actus non reum facit nisi mens sit rea" (an act does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intention). In order to constitute an offence, the intent and act must concur; but in the case of insane persons, no culpability is fastened on them as they have no free will (furios is nulla voluntas est).
Supreme Court of India
Bapu @ Gajraj Singh vs State Of Rajasthan on 4 June, 2007
Behaviour, antecedent, attendant and subsequent to the event, may be relevant in finding the mental condition of the accused at the time of the event, but not that remote in time. It is difficult to prove the precise state of the offender's mind at the time of the commission of the offence, but some indication thereof is often furnished by the conduct of the offender while committing it or immediately after the commission of the offence. 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 the mind sufficiently to enable the person soundly to judge the act; but the expression does not necessarily mean complete or prefect restoration of the mental faculties to their original condition. So, if there is such a 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.he 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 behaviour, or that his behaviour was queer, cannot be sufficient to attract the application of this section.
In insanity defense, there are two aspects of proving an offense, which are as follows:
Commission of crime and
The burden of proving the commission of an offense is always on the prosecution, and that never shifts. The prosecution has to prove the same beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the onus of proving the existence of circumstances (Section 84 IPC) for insanity defense would be on the accused (Section 105 of the Evidence Act) and the court shall presume the absence of such circumstances. The accused has to prove by placing material before the court such as expert evidence, oral and other documentary evidence, presumptions, admissions or even the prosecution evidence, satisfying that he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or of knowing that what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.
The concept of responsibility connects with our most fundamental convictions about human nature and dignity and everyday experience of guilt and innocence and blame and punishment. Punishing a person, who is not responsible for the crime, is a violation of the basic human rights and fundamental rights under the Constitution of India. It also brings the due process of law, if that person is not in a position to defend himself in the court of law, evoking the principle of natural justice.The affirmative defense of legal insanity applies to this fundamental principle by excusing those mentally disordered offenders whose disorder deprived them of rational understanding of their conduct at the time of the crime. Hence, it is generally admitted that incapacity to commit crimes exempts the individual from punishment. This is recognized by the legislation of most of the civilized nations. Even in India, Section 84 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the “act of a person of unsound mind” and discusses insanity defense. However, in the recent past some of the U.S. states (such as Montana, Idaho, Kansas, and Utah) have banned insanity defense. This issue has raised a serious debate among medical, psychology and law professionals across the world.
Very little research has been done on this topic in India, however, there are few studies on exploring the clinical picture of the patients in prison. A landmark study in the forensic psychiatry of Indian setting occurred in 2011, in which 5024 prisoners were assessed on semi-structured interview schedule reported that 4002 (79.6%) individuals could be diagnosed as having a diagnosis of either mental illness or substance use. After excluding substance abuse, 1389 (27.6%) prisoners still had a diagnosable mental disorder. Another study from India portray a very gloomy picture of patients in forensic psychiatry settings and advocate for there is a need to streamline the procedure of referral, diagnosis, treatment, and certification.To address this issue of streamlining the process of evaluation of insanity defense and certification, this article focuses on semi-structured assessment in the Indian context based on landmark Supreme Court decisions. In addition, it will also present a model for evaluating a defendant's mental status examination and briefly discuss the legal standards and procedures for the assessment of insanity defense evaluations.
Terms such as “insanity” and “unsoundness of mind” are legal concepts and are used frequently in the court of law. Though the Mental Health Act, 1987 has clearly recommended the abolition of various offensive terminologies, unfortunately, these terminologies continue to exist in various legislations, rules, regulations, and also even recent case laws.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF INSANITY IN INDIA
Insanity defense has been in existence since many centuries; however, it took a legal position only since the last three centuries. There were various tests used to declare a person legally insane such as Wild Beast test, The Insane Delusion test, and “test of capacity to distinguish between right and wrong.”These three tests laid the foundation for the landmark Mc Naughten rule.
In 1843, Daniel Mc Naughten, a wood-turner from Glasgow, shot and killed Edward Drummond mistaking him for Sir Robert Peel. Mc Naughten believed that he was persecuted by the Tories, and evidence was brought to show that he had been totally deluded on this subject for some time. His state of mind was apparent from the outset when he had to be coaxed, and finally tricked, into pleading “not guilty.” After hearing seven medical witnesses testify that he was completely insane, the judge stopped the trial, the jury brought in the special verdict without summing up and without retiring, and Mc Naughten was forcibly committed to the Bethlem Hospital. Immediately thereafter, five propositions were drawn which were called Mc Naughten rules.
This Mc Naughten rule became a legendary precedent for the law concerning the defense of insanity. Even, in India, insanity defense law, Section 84 IPC is solely based on the Mc Naughten rules. Since it is drafted, no changes have been made. However, in 1971, there was an attempt by the Law Commission of India to revisit the Section 84 in their 42nd report, but no changes were made.
Section 84 of IPC deals with the “act of a person of unsound mind.”. “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.”
On analysis of the Section 84 IPC, the following essential ingredients can be listed. For the sake of easy understanding, the Section 84 IPC can be divided into two broad categories of, major criteria (medical requirement of mental illness) and minor criteria (loss of reasoning requirement). Major criteria (mental illness requirement) mean the person must be suffering from mental illness during the commission of act. Minor criteria (loss of reasoning requirement) mean the person is:
Incapable of knowing the nature of the act or
Incapable of knowing his act is wrong or
Incapable of knowing it is contrary to law.
Both major (mental illness) and minor (loss of reasoning) criteria constitute legal insanity.
Section 84 IPC, clearly embodies a fundamental maxim of criminal jurisprudence that is, (a) “Actus nonfacit reum nisi mens sit rea” (an act does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intention) and (b) “Furiosi nulla voluntas est” (a person with mental illness has no free will). This means that an act does not constitute a crime unless it is done with a guilty intention called “mens rea.” Hence, Section 84 IPC fastens no culpability on persons with mental illness because they can have no rational thinking or the necessary guilty intent.
Modern criminal law is based on the belief that humans are morally responsible and not harm causing agents. To be held criminally responsible, two essential elements have to be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, (a) the person committed the act (actus reus) (b) in doing so, the person acted with his or her own free will, intentionally and for rational reasons (mens rea).
Psychiatrists may be asked to assist the court in determining whether certain mental disorders affected a person's ability to form the intent necessary to make that person legally culpable.
Medical insanity versus legal insanity
Section 84 lays down the legal test of responsibility in cases of alleged crime done by a person with mental illness. There is no definition of “unsoundness of mind” in the IPC. The courts have, however, mainly treated this expression as equivalent to insanity. But the term “insanity” itself has no precise definition, carries different meaning in different contexts and describes varying degrees of mental disorders. Every person who is mentally ill is not ipso facto exempted from criminal responsibility. A distinction is to be made between legal insanity and medical insanity. A court is concerned with legal insanity, and not with medical insanity. Any person, who is suffering from any kind of mental illness is called “medical insanity,” however “legal insanity” means, person suffering from mental illness should also have a loss of reasoning power. The term legal insanity also refers to the “mental state” of a person at the time of committing crime and nothing else. This is purely a legal concept and is unrelated to the various psychiatric diagnoses.
In simple words, legal insanity means, at the time of the commission of the act, the person should be suffering from mental illness and also have a loss of reasoning power. This issue is clearly depicted in Section 84 IPC as that person incapable of knowing:
The nature of the act, or
That he is doing what is either wrong or
Contrary to law.
Mere abnormality of mind or partial delusion, irresistible impulse or compulsive behavior of a psychopath affords no protection under Section 84 IPC.
In one of the landmark decisions, in the case of Surendra Mishra V. state of Jharkhand,the Apex Court has stated that an accused who seeks exoneration from liability of an act under Section 84 of the IPC is to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity. Further, it also said that expression “unsoundness of mind” has not been defined in the IPC, and it has mainly been treated as equivalent to insanity. But the term insanity carries different meaning in different contexts and describes varying degrees of mental disorders. Every person who is suffering from mental illness is not exempted from criminal liability. The mere fact that the 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 affected his emotions or indulges in certain unusual acts, or had fits of insanity at short intervals or that he was subject to epileptic fits and there was abnormal behavior or the behavior is queer are not sufficient to attract the application of Section 84 of the IPC.
The Apex Court in its judgment reported that though accused suffered from certain mental instability of mind even before and after the incident but from that one cannot infer on a balance of preponderance of probabilities that the appellant at the time of the commission of the offense did not know the nature of his act; that it was either wrong or contrary to law, hence rejected insanity defense. In a similar case, despite having a medical history of insanity proved by evidence in court, the court convicted the accused based on his subsequent conduct viz., his act of concealing the weapon, bolting the door to prevent arrest and absconding thereafter as the said acts were held by the court to be a display of consciousness of the guilt.
The crucial point of time for determining the state of mind of the accused is the time when the offense was committed. The person suffering from mental illness is one of the facts for Section 84 IPC. However, other facts which also needs to be given importance are: Motive for the crime, the previous history as to mental condition of the accused, the state of his mind at the time of the offense, and the events immediately after the incident that throw a light on the state of his mind. To summarize, it is not only the fact that the person is suffering from mental illness but it is the totality of the circumstances seen in the light of the evidence on record to prove that the person was also unable to appreciate the nature of the act or wrongdoing or that it was contrary to the law is appreciated in the court of law for insanity defense.
Burden of proof in insanity defense
Under law, every man is presumed to be sane and assumed to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his acts unless the contrary is proved.Every person is presumed to know the natural consequences of his act. Similarly, every person is also presumed to know the law. The prosecution does not have to establish these facts.
In insanity defense, there are two aspects of proving an offense, which are as follows:
Commission of crime and
The burden of proving the commission of an offense is always on the prosecution, and that never shifts. The prosecution has to prove the same beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the onus of proving the existence of circumstances (Section 84 IPC) for insanity defense would be on the accused (Section 105 of the Evidence Act) and the court shall presume the absence of such circumstances. The accused has to prove by placing material before the court such as expert evidence, oral and other documentary evidence, presumptions, admissions or even the prosecution evidence, satisfying that he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or of knowing that what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.[The Supreme Court have ascertained 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 for claiming the benefit of the Section 84 provision.In Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakker versus state of Gujarat, this court has held that even if the accused was not able to establish conclusively that he was insane at the time he committed the offense, the evidence placed before the court may raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the court as regards one or more of the ingredients of the offense, including mens rea of the accused and in that case the court would be entitled to acquit the accused on the ground that the general burden of proof resting on the prosecution was not discharged.Though the burden is on the accused, he is not required to prove the same beyond all reasonable doubt, but merely satisfy the preponderance of probabilities. The burden of proof casted upon him is no higher than that rests upon a party to civil proceedings.
Motivation for a crime
Mere absence of motive for a crime and howsoever atrocious the crime may be, in the absence of plea and proof of legal insanity, cannot bring the case within the ambit of Section 84 IPC.Also the fact that the accused made no attempt to run away from the crime scene, would not indicate that he was insane or, that he did not have the necessary mens rea for the commission of the offense. Further, the Supreme Court have clearly stated that the mere abnormality of mind or partial delusion, irresistible impulse or compulsive behavior of a psychopath affords no protection under Section 84 IPC.
Plea of insanity
The onus of proving unsoundness of mind is on the accused, hence the plea of insanity should be taken by the accused or by his lawyer or his family members or previous history of insanity is revealed, it is the duty of an honest investigating officer to subject the accused to a medical examination and place that evidence before the court and if this is not done, it creates a serious infirmity in the prosecution case and the benefit of doubt has to be given to the accused. Hence, the plea of insanity should be taken during the investigation or during the trial in the lower court not during the appeal to the higher court.
To summarize, the concept of insanity defense is a legal one and not a medical one. Although a psychiatrist's opinion is taken into account ultimately the decision to accept or reject the defense lays with the court the world over. Based upon the reasoning power of the defendant during the circumstances of the crime .
In Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd edn., Vol. 10, at p. 288, it is stated thus: "The onus of establishing insanity is on the accused. The burden of proof upon him is no higher than which rests upon a party to civil proceedings."
Glanville Williams in his book 'Criminal Law", The General Part, 2nd Edn., places the relevant aspect in the correct perspective thus, at p. 516:
"As stated before, to find that the accused did not know the nature and quality of his act is, in part, only another way of finding that he was ignorant as to some fact constituting an ingredient of the crime; and if the crime is one requiring intention or recklessness he must, on the view advanced in this book, be innocent of mens rea. Since the persuasive burden of proof of mens rea is on the prose- cution, on question of defence, or of disease of the mind, arises, except in so far as the prisoner is called upon for his own safety to neutralise the evidence of the prosecution. No persuasive burden of proof rests on him, and if the jury are uncertain whether the allegation of mens rea is made out ............ the benefit of the doubt must be given to the prisoner, for, in the words of Lord Reading in another context, "the Crown would then have failed to discharge the burden imposed on it by our law of satisfying the jury beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the prisoner."
A Scottish case, H.M. Advocate v. Fraser(4), noticed in Glanville Williams' "Criminal Law", The General Part, 2nd Edn., at p. 517, pinpoints the distinction between these two categories of burden of proof. There, a man killed his baby while he was asleep; he was dreaming that he was struggling with a wild beast. The learned author elaborates the problem thus:
"When the Crown proved that the accused had killed his baby what may be called an evidential presumption or presumption of fact arose that the killing was murder. Had no evidence been adduced for the defence the jury could have convicted of murder, and their verdict would have been upheld on appeal. The burden of adducing evidence of the delusion therefore lay on the accused. Suppose that, when all the evidence was in, the jury did not know what to make of the matter. They might suspect the accused to be inventing a tale to cover his guilt, and yet not be reasonably certain about it. In that event the accused would be entitled to an acquittal. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt not only the actus reus but the mens rea. "
When a plea of legal insanity is set up, the court has to consider whether at the time of commission of the offence the accused, by reason of unsoundness of mind, was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law. The crucial point of time for ascertaining the state of mind of the accused is the time when the offence was committed. Whether the accused was in such a state of mind as to be entitled to the benefit of s. 84 of the Indian Penal Code can only be established from the circumstances which preceded, attended and followed the crime.
To establish that the acts done are not offences under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, if must be proved clearly that, at the time of the commission of the acts, the appellant, by reason of unsoundness of mind, was incapable of either knowing the nature of the act or that the acts were either morally wrong or contrary to law. The question to be asked is, is there evidence to show that, at the time of the commission of the offences, he was labouring under any such incapacity ? On this question, the state of his mind before or after the commission of the offence in relevant. The general burden of proof that an accused person is in a sound state of mind is upon the prosecution. In Dahuabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. The State of Gujarat (1), Subba Rao, J., as he then was, speaking for the Court said :
(1) The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused 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 accused was not insane, when he committed the crime, in the sense laid down by Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code : the accused 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 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 be entitled to acquit the accused on the ground that the general burden of proof resting on the prosecution was not discharged.
Sheralli Wali Mohammed v. The State of Maharashtra [(1973) 4 SCC 79]however, mere fact that the appellant did not make any attempt to run away or that he committed the crime in day light and did not try to hide it or that motive to kill his wife was very weak, would not indicate that at the time of commission of the act the appellant was suffering from unsoundness of mind or he did not have requisite mens rea for the commission of the offence. It is correct that these facts itself would not indicate insanity.