The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success
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
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
Decision 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
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
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:
- There is an supposition that every man is sensible or sane and knows
what he is burden and is responsible for the same.
- 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.
- 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
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
Model Penal code test
- Model Penal code test
- Durham rule
- Irresistible impulse test
- M’ Naughten rule.
Widely accepted in the 1970s the states followed suit and changed state law to
confirm with the congressional findings.
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
Section 2 of the Act clearly states that:
Irresistible impulse test
- 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.
- 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.
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
Leading Indian Cases
Ratan Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh
- 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.
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:
- Remains depressed,
- Doesn’t speak,
- He is a case of lunatic depression and psychosis, and
- 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
- Medical evidence provided and,
- 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
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