SECTION 84.2 Legal insanity vis-à-vis Medical Insanity- A distinction is to be made between legal insanity and medical insanity. A Court is always concerned with legal insanity, and not with medical insanity. What Sections 84, IPC, 1860 provides is defense of legal insanity as distinguished from medical insanity. A person is legally insane when he is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that what he was doing was wrong or contrary to law. Incapacity of the person on account of insanity must be of the nature which attracts the operation of Section 84 IPC, 1860. An accused who seeks exoneration from liability of an act under section 84 of the IPC, 1860 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 disorder. Every person who is suffering from mental disease is not ipso facto 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 attract the application of SECTION 84 of the IPC, 1860. The medical profession would undoubtedly treat the accused as a mentally sick person. However, for the purposes of claiming the benefit of the defense 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. Only legal insanity is contemplated under Section 84 of IPC, 1860.
SECTION 84.3 42nd Report of Law Commission of India- Law Commission of India revisited section 84 of the IPC, 1860 in view of the criticism to the M’Naughten Rules in various countries including Britain but came to the conclusion that law of insanity under section 84 of the IPC, 1860 needs no changes in Indian circumstances.
Section 84 lays down the legal test of responsibility in cases of alleged unsoundness of mind. There is definition of “unsoundness of mind” in the Penal Code. The Courts have, however, mainly treated this expression as equivalent to insanity. But the term “insanity” itself has no precise definition. It is a term used to describe varying degrees of mental disorder. So, every person, who is mentally diseased, is not ipso facto exempted from disorder. So, every person, who is mentally diseased, 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. In this case, the accused was under medical treatment prior to the occurrence. Evidence indicating that he remained mentally fit for about four years after treatment. During the trial also he was sent for treatment and his conduct was normal thereafter. On such facts, it was held, that the accused was not entitled to protection under section 84. The Court also added that accused must be medically examined and report placed before the Court. Any lapse in this respect would create infirmity in the prosecution case and the accused may become entitled to benefit of doubt.
- ‘At the time of doing it’- It must clearly be proved that at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring 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 know he was doing what was wrong. If he did know it, he is responsible.
In Sheralli Wali Mohammed v State of Maharashtra, it was held that
It 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 offence, he was laboring under any such incapacity? On this question, the state of his mind before and after the commission of the offence is relevant.
The crucial point of time for deciding whether the benefit of this section should be given or not is the material time when the offence takes place . If at that moment a man is found to be laboring under such a defect of reason as not to know the nature of the act he was doing or that, even if he knew it, he did not know the nature of the act he was doing or that, even if he knew it, he did not know it was either wrong or contrary to law then this section must be applied. In coming to that conclusion, the relevant circumstances, like the behavior of the accused before the commission of the offence and his behavior after the commission of the offense, should be taken into consideration.
The accused pushed a child of four years into fire resulting in his death but there was nothing to show that there was any deliberateness or preparation to commit the crime. His act was accompanied by manifestations of unnatural brutality and was committed openly. He neither concealed nor ran away nor tried to avoid detection which showed that he was not conscious of his guilt. It was held the accused was entitled to benefit of section 84 and his conviction under section 302 was set aside. The accused, a young boy brought up by his grandfather, went abroad for further studies. When his parents visited abroad they did not care to see him. His grandfather’s death was communicated to him much later. On return to India, he committed offences of brutal nature at random. During the pendency of the session’s case, he again continued and completed his engineering course and started a printing press and later he managed a garage and allied industries employing nearly 30 persons. His behavior before and after the offences was that of a normal man. It was held that he was insane at the time of the offence and was given benefit of section 84. Where the accused was examined by two doctors who certified him to be schizophrenic and his abnormal behavior was also apparent from the evidence on the record, the Supreme Court held that the acquittal of the accused by the High Court was proper.
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