Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code specifies that every crime committed by an individual who is of an unsound mind at the time of the act and the individual is unable to comprehend the essence of the act and the individual does not realise that the act he is perpetrating is incorrect or contrary to the rule.

Different tests were used to declare a person legally insane, such as the Wild Beast Test, this test was the first to verify the insanity laid down in Arnold’s case, in this case it was concluded that if any man did not have the ability to decide what is right or wrong, he will get defence of insanity. Then came the Insane Delusion Test and the skill test to differentiate between right or wrong, setting the basis of the McNaughten law for all three tests.

The accused McNaughten experienced persecution mania in 1843 because he claimed because of this disorder that all the problems he faced were attributed to British Prime Minister Robert Pel and McNaughten fired Mr. Drummond claiming under a mistake that he was murdering Prime Minister who was PM’s private secretary and this occurred when McNaughten was sick.

So he pled insane and he was acquitted by the House of Lords . This created a lot of public opinion and a lot of pressure was placed on the House of Lords and a special committee of judges was formed and the rules for the plea of insanity were laid down and this is known as the Rules of McNaughten

Those rules are as follows:

  • All are believed to be sane before the Court’s satisfaction is proven to the contrary.
  • One should specifically prove that the accused suffered from the defect or mental illness at the time of the act to assert the defence of the Insane.
  • The perpetrator does not know the essence of the act at the time of performing the act,
  • The perpetrator does not know that what he was doing was wrong at the time of doing the crime.

English law treats insanity as a legitimate defence.

The Indian Law on the definition of Insanity as a Defense

In India, under section 84 of IPC, the law on this subject is referred to the rules are the same as stated in House of Lords’ McNaughten case. By the way, Section 84 uses the term unsoundness of mind more comprehensively than the word Insane.

Requisite ingredients of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 84

  • An individual with an unsound mind must act
  • At the moment of committing the crime, such a person was unsound.
  • Such incapacity should be of the accused’s unsound mind
  • Such an individual was unable to grasp whether the essence of the crime or the act he was doing was either wrong or contrary to the law.

A simple plea of insanity, if not necessary, to be convicted or exempted under this clause. It must be seen to the fullest degree possible that there was unsoundness in mind at the time of the crime and that unsoundness was so strong that it left him unable to grasp the meaning of the act and that even though he understood that the act was incorrect, he did not realise that he was wrong or against the statute.

Incapacity to know the nature of the act: In Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, the term ‘incapacity to realise the essence of the offence’ applies to the state of mind where the accused was unable to understand the consequences of his actions. In any possible sense of the word, it would suggest that the accused is insane, and such insanity would sweep away his capacity to appreciate the physical consequences of his actions.

Incapacity to know the right or wrong:

Under the latter part of Section, in order to invoke the protection of insanity, namely ‘or to do what is either incorrect or contrary to the statute,’ it is not mandatory for the accused to be entirely insane, his cause not to be wholly insane, his reason not to be wholly extinguished. What is needed is to show that even though the criminal understood the physical consequences of his act, he was unable to realise that he was doing what was either “wrong” or “contrary to the law.” By incorporating the definition of temporary insanity as a defence against criminal insanity, this portion of Section 84 has made a new contribution to criminal law. Nevertheless, as a practical matter, there will certainly be very few situations where insanity is argued in defence of an offence in which it would be appropriate to differentiate between “moral” and “legal” error. Of any offence, insanity will certainly be argued as a defence, but it is seldom pleaded except in murder cases. Consequently, this fine distinction might not be so helpful for the judgement of a particular situation. In Section 84, possibly expecting the dispute, the Indian penal code has advisably used either “wrong or contrary to the law.”

Difference between medical insanity and legal insanity.

The rule in this chapter differentiates the contrast between medical and legal insanity. If he is suffering from some condition or disease of the mind, an individual is considered medically insane. Medical insanity implies the individual’s awareness of the bearing of his actions on those influenced by it and the consciousness of the person in reference to himself is implied by legal insanity.

The legal obligation test is laid out in section 84 of the Indian Penal Code as distinct from the medical test. It may be noted that the lack of will results not just from the lack of sophistication of awareness, but also from a morbid state of mind. From the medical and legal point of view, this grim state of mind, which offers an escape from criminal liability, varies. According to the medical point of view, it is probably correct to conclude that a person is insane after committing an illegal act and thus deserves an immunity from criminal responsibility; while it is a legal point of view, a person must be considered to be the same as long as he is capable of discriminating between right and wrong; although he recognises that the act is contrary to the law.

The Supreme Court also held that mentally ill persons and psychopaths are unlikely to claim relief from a criminal case, because by the time the crime was committed, it is their duty to prove insanity. So, in fact, not every mentally ill person is excluded from criminal obligation. A difference must remain between legal insanity and medical insanity. A psychopath’s simple abnormality of mind, partial illusion, irresistible compulsion or compulsive behaviour does not provide immunity from criminal liability as granted by Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, held by the apex court. The Bench claimed that as provided in Section 105 of the Indian Evidence, Section 84 of the IPC, which gives immunity from criminal liability to people of unsound mind, would not be open to the convicted, as the burden of proving insanity would rest with them.

In the case of Hari Singh Gond v. Madhya Pradesh State, the Supreme Court noted that in cases of suspected mental insanity, Section 84 lays out the legal test of accountability. In IPC, there is no ‘mind soundness’ concept. However, this term has primarily been viewed by the courts as analogous of insanity. Yet there is no clear meaning of the word ‘insanity’ itself. It is a concept that is used to classify varying degrees of psychiatric illness. Both legal insanity and medical insanity, a distinction must be made. A court is obsessed with procedural insanity, not medical insanity.

Durham rule

In the case of Durham v. United States (1954), the Durham defence is sometimes referred to as the “Durham rule,” or the “product test,” the defendant was convicted of breaking into a house and demanded the plea of insanity in his defence. The Court of Appeal declared the current tests, which were the Mc’Naughten Law and the irresistible impulse test, to be obsolete. But later on, it was known that all of these tests could also be used, and in addition to these tests, the Durham law could be used.

There are two principal components of this defence:

  • The defendant must have a mental disorder or infirmity first. While in the Durham case these terms are not clearly clarified, the vocabulary of the judicial view suggests an attempt to concentrate more on rational, psychological criteria rather than depend on the emotional cognition of the defendant.
  • The second aspect is linked to causation. If the mental disorder or defect is “caused” by illegal activity, so the actions should be omitted from the terms.

This test is currently approved only in New Hampshire, noting that other jurisdictions have found it too broad.

Leading case laws:

 Ratan Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh  

When asked why he did it the appellant was caught setting fire to the grass in an open Nemichand land, he responded, ‘I burned it do whatever you want.’ Under Section 435 of the Indian Penal Code, the appellant was charged (mischief by fire with the purpose of causing damage). In compliance with the Indian Lunacy Act, 1912, he was a lunatic, according to the psychiatrist.

The trial court held that there was no responsibility for sentencing the guilty. The prosecution lodged an appeal, and the High Court overturned the trial’s findings and found the convicted responsible for the crime. Afterwards the appeal was approved by the Supreme Court, and the verdict was set aside based on two key factors:

  • Provided medical evidence
  • In compliance with the actions of the accused on the day of the incident.

These considerations suggested that within the scope of Section 84 of IPC, the accused was insane

Seralli Wali Mohammad v. The State of Maharashtra

The defendant was convicted of causing the death of his wife and daughter with a chopper under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea of insanity because it was not necessary to show that he did not have the mens rea to commit the act merely that there was no justification proven, or because he did not try to escape.

Shrikant Anandrao Bhosale v. The State of Maharashtra

The accused was a police constable in this case. The wife was struck on the head by the accused with a grinding hammer, and she was rushed to the hospital immediately, but was already pronounced dead. Following an investigation, the appellant was charged with murder. As a defence, insanity was pleaded. The appellant had a family background where mental illness had influenced his father. There was no known explanation for such an ailment. For this psychiatric illness, the appellant was seeking therapy. The motivation for the murder was observed to be very small. The accused did not try to hide or run away after murdering his wife.

It was held, on the basis of the above-mentioned evidence, that the accused suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was unable to grasp the essence of the act perpetrated by him. He was also not guilty of murder and would be given the advantage under Section 844 of IPC.

Jai Lal v. Delhi Administration:

Here according to Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, the appellant murdered a small girl with a knife and also stabbed two other persons. The accused argued that he was suffering from madness within the framework of Section 84, IPC.

It was found that the perpetrator, after being detained, gave the investigating officers natural and intelligent comments. In his behaviour, nothing irregular was found. Taking all these findings into account, the Supreme Court held that at the time of the commission of the act, the appellant was not insane and was well aware of the effects of his actions. He has been found guilty under Section 302, IPC, of murder.

Loopholes in Defence of Insanity and how it is misused:

There are very good possibilities in the modern situation that the defence of insanity will be exploited very well, since it is a very powerful tool to avoid the allegations of an offence. It is difficult to claim that the perpetrator was unable to comprehend the essence of the crime. It may be used by defence attorneys to free the suspects of deliberate criminal actions.

Here the courts play an essential rule when they have to ensure that by misusing the defence in his behalf, a sane person does not absolve himself. The defence of insanity has been absolutely scrapped in many jurisdictions, e.g., Germany, Thailand, Argentina, etc.

Aishwarya Says:

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