Author: Nikitha Panchagnula, Student at University College of Law, Osmania University.
Citation: 1997 CriLJ 1461
Date of decision: August 16,1996
Bench: P. Sarkar, H. Singh
Original copy: N/A
Statutes involved: Indian Penal Code, 1806, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
Issue in question:
- Whether the accused could take the exception of unsoundness of mind as enumerated under Section 84 of Indian Penal Code, 1806?
Background of the case:
- The deceased- Mr A. Sarangkhomba Singh, the stepfather of the accused- K. Somoi Singh was a general physician engaged in the treatment of lunatic persons and belonged to Waikhong Laimanai village. The accused was a lunatic who was taken care of by his younger brother. His lunacy was of such a nature that he would hold deadly weapons attempting to commit murders beyond any control.
- One fine day, the accused escaped from his brother’s house. Later, the deceased kept him at his house for the purpose of treatment. One afternoon, the accused who was suffering from a mental disorder, became violent and assaulted the deceased with a Dao and Axe in the house of the deceased due to which the deceased was severely injured and died on the spot which was witnessed by the daughter of the deceased.
- Upon knowing this, local people and the police rushed to the spot. A complaint was filed by the daughter of the deceased. The police immediately arrested the accused along with the weapons. Later, the police started the investigation and submitted the charge sheet against the accused before the Sessions Court.
- The doctor conducted the post mortem and proved that the death of the deceased was caused as a consequence of the injuries sustained by him.
- The Additional Sessions Judge, Manipur West, Imphal had sentenced the accused to rigorous imprisonment for life under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Aggrieved by the order of the Sessions Judge, an appeal was preferred by the accused before the Hon’ble High Court of Gauhati.
- The Court while pronouncing the order reiterated that the primary principle of criminal jurisprudence is that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution to prove that the accused has committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof never shifts onto the accused, it will always lie on the prosecution. Section 84 being an exception to the general rule under Indian Penal Code attracts Section 105 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which states that the burden of proof lies on the accused to prove the existence of circumstances bringing the case within any of the general or special exceptions under Indian Penal Code and the Court shall presume the absence of such circumstances.
- The material to be shown by the accused may be oral, documentary, admissions, presumptions or can be taken from the evidence of the prosecution. But such material provided by the accused should be sufficient enough to cause a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Judge to think over if the accused committed a crime with a criminal intention as envisaged under the provisions of the Code. The accused need not prove the evidence regarding the element under Section 84 of Indian Penal Code beyond reasonable doubt. But if a reasonable doubt could be caused in the mind of the Judge, the Judge has to acquit the accused even if the accused fails to prove conclusively that he was of unsound mind while committing the act.
- In this connection, the Hon’ble Court noted that the accused was suffering from Schizophreniform Psychosis which was confirmed by Dr. Lourembam Surchandra Singh, a specialist in Psychiatry who examined the accused thoroughly.
- Before concluding to the judgment, the Court noted the following facts:
- The accused is a young man who had no ill-will or grudge or hatred against the deceased who was his stepfather.
- The accused, without any ill-motive, picked up Dao and assaulted the deceased.
- The prosecution could not bring any evidence to show up the ill-motive of the accused behind his act of assault.
- After commission of the offence, the accused did not run away from the spot. He instead, threatened the people around him in the locality that he would kill them with an axe.
- This very act of the accused after committing the crime, indicates that such conduct would be possible for a person who is not in a proper sound state of mind.
- Considering the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case and the direct evidence put before, the Court held that the accused was of unsound mind at all the relevant time and that he was not in a position to know the nature of the act committed by him or was he able to understand what he did was wrong and contrary to law.
- Based on the material evidence submitted by the accused, there arises a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Judge that the accused at the relevant time did not have the criminal intention and hence the case would fall under general exceptions under Section 84, Indian Penal Code.
- The Court concluded that by preponderance of probability, it has been established that the accused was unsound mentally at the relevant time of commission of the offence and that he was not in a position to know the nature of the act committed by him or was he able to understand what he did was wrong and contrary to law and hence set aside the conviction and sentence passed by the Additional Sessions Judge against the Appellant. However, it directed that until the requisite conditions of law are satisfied, the Appellant may not be released from jail.
- No offence is absolute. It has certain exceptions. While drafting the Indian Penal Code, it was assumed that there could be no exceptions in criminal offences. Later, this loophole was identified and a separate Chapter IV was introduced in the Code which deals with General Exceptions. The exceptions under the Code are of two types- Excusable exemptions and Justifiable exemptions.
- The major objectives behind adding Chapter IV in Indian Penal Code were:
- Providing for exceptional circumstances where an individual could escape criminal liability.
- Making the construction of the Code plain by eliminating the repetition of exceptions.
- This case shows how the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution to the accused while taking the plea of general exception under Section 84 Indian Penal Code, which is an excusable exception.