Who Can Get the Defence of Insanity in Criminal Prosecution?


Criminal Prosecution needs to have Criminal intention. Indeed no one can be punished if his intention is not evil and he is not able to understand the nature of his act. Indian law provides a defence to a person who is of unsound mind. Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code explains the act of a person of unsound mind as non-punishable. It is based on the theory that one who has no mind and hence can't have the necessary men's rea to commit a crime. This is because we believe that a mad man is punished by his own madness (furious furore Sui punier) although the person is not punished the guidelines have been given for detention of such person in lunatic asylums under section 330 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


But every insane person has not been given the defence of insanity under this Code. Medical insanity is punishable while legal insanity isn't punishable. Medical Insanity means any mental abnormalities, uncontrollable impulse driving a man to kill or wound. While legal Insanity means the person is unable to understand the nature and consequences of his own act. Mc' Naughten's case is also known as the Right and the Wrong test is considered as the test of Insanity to determine the insane person. Although ingredients of Section 84 of Indian Penal Code explains who are the insane or non-compos mentis.


i. The person is not capable of knowing the nature of the act due to unsoundness of mind.

ii. The person is not aware whether he was doing wrong or contrary to law. There are certain judgements in which the Hon'ble Supreme Court or the competent Court explained who can get Insanity as a defence. Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand (2011) In this case, the court held that if anyone wants to get Insanity as a defence then they need to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity.


Dayabhai Chhanganbhai Thakkar v. the State of Gujarat (1964) The Court explained two conditions of mind -

i. Consequence of a delusion For instance- a person thought he would be killing a bird while he killed a human. He was in a delusion that a human is a bird.

ii. Insane delusion For instance- a person killed his child as he was aware of the nature of his act but he thought the child would go directly to paradise. Here the person was not aware that the act is morally wrong. Apart from this, the Court also held that ground for exemption is unsoundness of mind which impairs the cognitive (reasoning) faculty.


Phulabai Sadhu Shinde v. the State of Maharashtra (1976) Fact - In this case, a person jumped into well along with the child. But he was saved while the child died. In this case, the Court held that absenteeism of medical evidence didn't justify the exclusion of common sense. So, the Court granted the plea of unsoundness of mind.




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