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A Detailed Analysis Of The Concept Of Rule Of Insanity Under Indian Law With The Help Of M'Naughten's Case Verdict

The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success is quoted by Bruce Feinstein. Insanity as a defense in India remains an unsolved problem in criminal jurisprudence. It is a good defense for protection from criminal liability.

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, literal sense it means that: act does not make an offender liable without guilty mind.

Insanity Under Indian Law

Insanity under IPC

Section 84 of the IPC deals with : 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 incompetent of perceptive the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.
The rule of insanity explained in M' Naghten case

R V. M' Naghten (1843) 8E. R. 718; (1843) 10 CI, & F. 200

Facts of the case
In January 1843, Daniel M'Naghten take a gun and shoot Edward Drummond, he was injured.. Drummond died after the five days of the act and M'Naghten was accused of his homicide. He argued not blameworthy by reason of the insanity.

At preliminary, proof was given of the shooting of Drummond and witnesses were approached the sake of the respondent, M'Naghten, to validate the reality he was not in a sound perspective at the hour of submitting the demonstration. A portion of the observers who gave this proof, had recently inspected M'Naghten, while others had not seen him before the preliminary and, and they shaped their assessment on hearing the proof given by different observers.

The clinical proof presented expressed that people of in any case sound brain, may be influenced by sullen daydreams and that M'Naghten was so influenced. An individual working under such dream, may typically have an ethical view of good and bad, however corresponding to acts associated with their hallucination might be conveyed past force of their own control leaving them with no such insight.

Issue of the case
  • Whether the insanity is a defense in this case or not?
  • Whether defendant get benefit of insanity?
  • What is the law respecting alleged crimes committed by persons affected with insanity?

Decision of the case
Delivered the opinion for the House of Lords. M Naghten was found not guilty.Jurors should be instruct that every man is supposed sane and to acquire a sufficient degree of grounds to be accountable for his crimes. so, in order to set up an insanity defense, The insane person are not able to understand what is right or wrong they get legal benefit. The legal definition of insanity was clearly mentioned. The defense of insanity must show that:
  • They laboured under a defect of reason
  • Caused by a disease of the mind; so that either
  • He didn't know the nature and consequences of the act

Legal Reasoning
The hearing of M'Naughten and his discharge was a matter of discussion in House of Lords, and as a outcome, they called upon fifteen judges to decide on the question of criminal liability in the cases somewhere the accused is incapable of understanding the nature of the act and also answered the questions advanced. Fourteen judges had the same answers. If the person knew what he was doing or was only under a partial delusion, then he is punishable.

The following principle was incorporated in this case are given below:
  1. There is an supposition that every man is sensible or sane and knows what he is burden and is responsible for the same.
  2. To set up a defense based on insanity, it must be ascertained, at the time of perpetrating the act, the accused was in such a state of mind as was unable to know the nature of the act committed by him.
  3. A person who has enough medical knowledge, or is a medical man and is familiar with the disease of insanity cannot be asked to give his opinion because it is for the jury to determine, and decide upon the questions.

The first case which dealt with the law of insanity was R V. Arnold in which Edward Arnold tried to kill and even wound Lord On slow and was tried for the same. The evidence clearly showed that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder. Tracy, J. observed:
He did not know what he did, though he committed the greatest offence, yet he could not be guilty of any offence against any law whatever.

Surendra Mishra V. State of Jharghand

It was held that Every person suffering from mental illness is not ipso facto exempt from criminal responsibility.

Shrikant Anandrao Bhosale v. State of Maharashtra

the Supreme Court, in formative the offense under Section 84 of the IPC, held that' it is the entirety of the circumstances seen in the light of the recorded evidence' that would prove that the offense was committed.' It was added: The unsoundness of the mentality before and after the incident is a relevant fact.

Critical analysis of the case
I also support the decision but they have some clarifications is needed while invoking such general defense such situations court must be handle with proper due care to protect the rightness and punish the wrongdoer.

The test for insanity is challenged for a number of reasons, some argued that medical criteria for insanity is not always depended the legal definition is enough.

One of the another criticism is it is failure to differentiate the defendants possessing a public danger and those not. There is a chance for Illegal claim for avoid the criminal responsibility will be increased

Court will determine legal insanity by applying one of the following rules or tests.

  1. Model Penal code test
  2. Durham rule
  3. Irresistible impulse test
  4. M' Naughten rule.

Model Penal code test

Widely accepted in the 1970s the states followed suit and changed state law to confirm with the congressional findings.

Durham Rule

The Durham defense is also known as the Durham rule, or the product test was recognized in the case of, Durham v. United States (1954) the defendant was guilty of breaking into a house and demanded the plea of insanity in his defence. The existing tests, which were the Mc'Naughten Rule and the irresistible impulse test, were declared to be obsolete by the Court of Appeal. But later on, it was understood that both these tests could still be employed, and the Durham rule can be used in addition to these tests.

Concept of Diminished Responsibility

The Doctrine of Diminished Responsibility was introduced by the Homicide Act of 1957, as a defense to murder. If this defense is recognized, it will entitle the offender to be found guilty of manslaughter (culpable homicide) instead of murder.

Section 2 of the Act clearly states that:

  1. Where a person kills someone or is a party to killing, he will not be guilty of murder if he was suffering from some abnormality of mind and is mentally incapable of taking responsibility for his acts.
  2. A person who would be liable under this section, whether as a principal or as an accessory, will be convicted of manslaughter instead of being convicted of murder.

Irresistible impulse test
It is a criticism for M Naghten rule, insanity include more cognate element, such test focused not only whether defendants know right from wrong but also whether they could control their impulse to commit wrong doing.

M'Naghten rule

  • The rule was first established during the mid 19th century by English House of Lords.
  • The rule determine legal insane under this test
  • Every man is presumed to be sane and that to establish a defence on the ground that
Of insanity at the time of committing the crime by the disease of mind there is lack for understanding capacity and he did not know what is right or wrong hence not liable
  • The burden of proof is always on defendantand it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in india reanalyze S.84 IPC
  • Right and wrong test formulated in this case.

Leading Indian Cases

Ratan Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh

The appellant was caught setting fire to the grass in an open land of Nemichand, when he was asked why he did it, he replied; 'I burnt it, do whatever you want.' The appellant was charged under Section 435 (mischief by fire with intent to cause damage) of the Indian Penal Code. According to the psychiatrist, he was a lunatic in terms of the Indian Lunacy Act, 1912. The report explicitly stated that the accused is:
  1. Remains depressed,
  2. Doesn't speak,
  3. He is a case of lunatic depression and psychosis, and
  4. He requires therapy.
The trial court held that the accused was not liable to be punished. An appeal was filed by the state, and the High court reversed the findings of the trial and held the accused liable for the offence.

Afterward, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal, and the conviction was set aside based upon two major factors:
  1. Medical evidence provided and,
  2. According to the behavior of the accused on the day of the occurrence.
These factors indicated that the accused was insane within the meaning of Section 84, IPC

Related Case Laws

Seralli Wali Mohammad v. State of Maharashtra 1968

The offender was charged under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for causing the death of his wife and daughter with a chopper. The honorable Court discarded the plea of insanity for the reason that the mere fact that there was no motive proved, or that he did not attempt to run, was not adequate enough to show that he did not have the mens rea for committing the act.

Shrikant Anandrao Bhosale v. State of Maharashtra 2002

In this case, the accused was a police constable. The wife was hit on the head with a grinding stone by the accused, and she was immediately taken to the hospital but was found already dead. After investigation, the appellant was charged for the offence of murder. Insanity was pleaded as a defence. The appellant had a family history where his father also suffered from mental illness. The reason for such an ailment was not known. The appellant was undergoing treatment for this mental disease. It was observed that the motive for the murder was quite weak.

Based on the above-stated facts, it was held that the accused was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and he was incapable of comprehending the nature of the act committed by him. Therefore he was not guilty of murder and will be given the benefit of section 84, IPC.

Jai Lal v. Delhi Administration 1969

Here, the appellant killed a little girl with a knife and even stabbed two other people, was convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. It was pleaded by the accused that he was suffering from insanity within the ambit of Section 84, IPC.

It was observed that the accused, after being arrested gave normal and intelligent statements to the investigating officers. Nothing abnormal was noticed in his behavior. Considering all these findings, the Supreme Court held that the appellant was not insane at the time of the commission of the act and was well-aware of the consequences of his acts. He was held guilty for murder under Section 302, IPC.

Bowler case, 1812

After this case court used several strict practices for analyze the test of insanity in order to understand the mind of the accused during that time.

Kannakunnummal Ahmmed Koya V. State of Kerala 1967
The court held that irresistible impulse provides no defense under Indian law even if this is proved in court of law.

  • Proper understanding of facts and circumstances need for make a decision
  • Some exceptions must be added in rule of insanity.
  • Strict analysis of test to determine insanity is needed

The rule of insanity is a good defense for the defendant and the proof is needed for he is not a guilty person. Our earlier schools of criminology doesn't make separate law for insane. The difference is emerged during the neo classical school.

Suggested Articles on Insanity:

  1. Defense Of Insanity
  2. Evolution of insanity law in India
  3. Is Insanity As A Defence Insane?
  4. Insanity Plea: Need For Reform
  5. Difference Between Medical And Legal Insanity
  6. Judicial approach on Plea of insanity in India
  7. Insanity Defence: A Loopholes For Criminals
  8. Psychological Evidence: Insanity as a Defence
  9. When Can Insanity Act As A General Defence Under I.P.C
  10. Interpretation of Insanity As A Defence By The High Court of Rajasthan In Past 38 Years

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