Act Of Person Of Unsound Mind Under Indian Penal Code | Insanity | The National TV

Act of a person of unsound mind




Insanity is the worst, among all kinds of predicaments. Being deprived of a sound mind and a free will, an insane person is placed even at the lower footing than the child, as a child gets to decide for itself and can work according to its own free will. An insane person cannot even regulate its conduct. An act of an insane person is unintentional and involuntary thus, no court can correct him by punishment.



A mad man is punished by his own madness (Furiousus furore Sui punier). If we talk medically, insanity is another name for mental abnormality. Insanity is popularly denoted by idiocy, madness, lunacy to describe all other forms of mental illness.



However, insanity in Law is different from the medical concept of insanity. Section 84 of Indian Penal code mentions that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the Act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.



Insanity in law means a disorder of a mind which impairs the cognitive faculty, i.e., the reasoning capacity of a man, to such an extent as to render him incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of his actions. Not every kind of insanity can protect a man from being a convict, it is the only insanity of a particular or appropriate kind which is regarded as insanity in law that will exempt a man from criminal liability.



From time to time many tests were developed for testing insanity but the most appropriate test was the test of ‘right and wrong’ formulated in McNaughton’s case. In this case, the House of lords framed some questions about the insanity of a person when he took the defence of insanity after committing a crime. Today, those questions have developed into a more potent weapon against the ambiguity of taking insanity as a defense.


To establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason due to disease of the mind as not to know the nature and the quality of the act he was doing.



Ingredients of Section 84 are:

  1. The accused was unable to know the nature of the act, with automatism as the best example of it.
  2. Accused was precluded by reason of unsoundness of mind from understanding that the act he is committing is either wrong or against the law, an example it can be a person suffering from mental fits.



In the case of Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand AIR 2011, SC 627 the Supreme Court held that an accused who seeks exoneration from criminal liability of an act under Section84 is to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity. The accused is conceited, has become odd, or acting unusually or subject to fits or epileptic fits are not sufficient to attract this Section.



In the case of Ashriuddin v. The King AIR 1949 Cal 182. The Calcutta High court allowed the defense of insanity under Section 84 on the ground that the accused had sacrificed his son of 5 years while acting in the delusion of dream, believing it to be right.



To take the defense of insanity 3 elements are there:

  1. Nature of the act was not known to the accused
  2. The act was not known by him to be contrary to law
  3. The act was not known by him to be wrong.


The person who has all the 3 elements of insanity can only be allowed to take the defense of insanity for his acts, otherwise, he might be held liable for his acts. The courts while dealing with such type of cases have to be extra cautious as to not let the criminal free due to this provision.






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