Burden of Proof in Cases of Insanity – Insanity as a Defense under IPC – 11

The burden of proving the offence is always on the prosecution, the prosecution has to prove the offense beyond reasonable doubt. But onus of proving the elements mentioned in Section 84 of the IPC are on the accused (Section 105 of the Evidence Act)

To claim the defense of insanity defense have to prove that at the time of the occurrence of the incident accused was of unsound mind and the rules for burden of proof in cases of insanity are as follows:

Prosecution have to be prove that at the time of the occurrence of the incident accused was of unsound mind and the rules for burden of proof in cases of insanity are as follows:

  1. Prosecution have to be prove beyond the reasonable doubt that the offense was committed by accused with mens rea
  2. Insanity is a rebuttable presumption
  3. The accused can bring oral, circumstantial or documentary evidence to rebut the presumption of sanity at a time and claim defense of Section 84 of IPC and accused do not have to prove elements of Section 84 IPC beyond reasonable doubt
  4. Even if accused is not able to establish the ingredients of Section as to the acts committed by him but still creates a doubt in the minds of the Court. Then 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

Material Circumstances which help to draw interference regarding mental condition

The question whether accused was unsound at the time of occurrence of crime varies from case to case this thing has to be decided by the facts of the case. The circumstances which help to draw the interference regarding mental condition of the accused at the time of the offense are:

1. Motive

2. Preparation

3. Desire for concealment

4. Making statements which are false

5. Conduct before, at the time and after the commission of the offence

6. Conduct after the commission of the offence, showing guilt and trying to avoid detention

Role of psychiatrist

A standard evaluation procedure is necessary for all patients who support the defence of insanity. It is a pity that to date there are no standardized procedures in our country. Psychiatrists are often called to conduct mental health assessments and treatments. In addition to treatment, courts can also request various certifications. This includes:

Certify the presence or absence of psychiatric illness if the defendant requires a reason for insanity (the mental state of the defendant when the alleged crime occurred);

Evaluation of the suitability to be judged in cases where the mental illness is incapable of the cognitive, emotional and behavioural faculties of an individual that cause a serious impact on the ability to defend the case (the current mental state of the accused and their competence during the award).

The psychiatrist should consider the admission admitted for a global evaluation of the accused. The psychiatrist has to educate the court, clarify psychiatric problems and provide an honest and objective opinion based on concrete data and sound reasoning. This NIMHANS Detailed Workup Proforma for Forensic Psychiatry Patients-II is used in the Institute since many decades for semi-structured assessment of forensic psychiatric cases. This proforma is modified periodically as per the clinical evaluation and legal requirement.

Review of accompanying documents

It is the duty of the psychiatrist to review all the accompanying legal documents and determine the reference authority, the reason for the report, the date and time of the report and the time available to issue the opinion. A careful history of all possible sources should be compiled, such as the accused, the companion, the FIR, the post mortem report and the autopsy, the crime scene photographs, the behaviour observation report, the member interview of the family and the psychiatrist in the past.

Assessment of history of presenting illness

The defendant should be interviewed as soon as possible in time for the crime, even if in practice, this is not always feasible. At the beginning of the evaluation, the accused must be informed of the purpose of the evaluation and the lack of confidentiality. A complete survey should be made of the history of the presentation of the disease, of the history, of the family history, of the personal history and a premorbid personality. The psychiatrist should never forget to evaluate substance use in the past and present.


It is suggested that there should be a well-defined definition of the term ‘mental insanity’ to avoid the various controversies and confusions that arise in understanding and differentiating between the ‘mental disease’ and the actual insanity of mind sought by the Code or the so-called ‘legal insanity’ in order to make the defense available to the accused.

Section 84 of the Code should be amended to incorporate the partial defense of diminished responsibility for murdering insane persons. This change shall be made on an equal footing with the defense of diminished responsibility as accepted under the defense of insanity as specified by English criminal law.

The scope of Section 84 should be expanded to incorporate the defense of automatism under the defense of an unhealthy mind, just as it is recognized by the English criminal law system.

Aishwarya Says:

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You may also like to read:

Article 3: An Analysis – Aishwarya Sandeep

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