September 17, 2021


By the time the accused takes the plea of insanity, they are attesting a confirmed barrier—that is, they concede that they carried out a criminal demonstration, yet try to pardon their conduct by reason of dysfunctional behaviour that fulfils the meaning of lawful insanity. Individuals who are pronounced to have been insane at the time they carried out a wrongdoing are neither lawfully nor ethically blameworthy. The exception is often taken by the attorney of the accused to justify heinous crimes or grave criminal acts. It has been duly seen, as one of the major point of argument in instances of serial killers, cold blood murders, genocide, cult leaders etc.

There has been an observation that a majority of these criminal offenders are more than often suffering from mental illness and have evidence to prove by such claims via psychiatric or layperson testimony. However, mental insanity differs from legal insanity and thereby, remains difficult to establish in the court of law. There lies a great distinction between mental and legal insanity. As per clinical perspective, it is likely right to state that each individual, while carrying out a criminal acts, is insane and along these lines needs an exclusion from criminal obligation; while it is a legitimate perspective, an individual must be held to be equivalent to long as he can recognize good and bad; as long as he realizes that the demonstration completed is in opposition to the law. Mentally ill and psychopaths are immune from this defence as ruled by the Apex Court if they demonstrated responsibility while committing these crimes. A mentally ill person is not prosecuted for his acts, the burden of proof for such a claim lies solely on the defence perhaps the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that no such claim withholds. If such claims are proved in the court of law, depending upon the condition of the defendant he is either send to send to prison, psychiatric hospital, any other place of safe custody or he may be acquitted.

Mc Naughten Rule:

The IPC section 84 is based upon Mc Naughten’s rules of 1843 in England. The following were stated[1]:

  1. Every man is to be presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved.
  2. An insane person is punishable “if he knows” at the time of crime.
  3. To establish a defence on insanity, the accused, by defect of reason or disease of mind, is not in a position to know the nature and consequences.
  4. The insane person must be considered in the same situation as to responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real.
  5. It was the jury’s role to decide whether the defendant was insane.

The rule stated and established the fundamentals of “understandability of right and wrong” and “intellectual” rather than a moral or affective definition dominated in its formulation.

Section 84 of Indian Penal Code:

In India, the definition of insanity is: 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 incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.[2]

According to the above-mentioned it stresses on the fact that unsoundness of mind must exist at the time of the offence. The capacity should be that the renders the person incapable of knowing the consequences and the nature of the act he has committed. Unsoundness of mind is utilised to portray just those conditions that influence cognitive limit of a person. In this way, every individual who is intellectually sick is not soothed from his duties. Clinical insanity implies individual’s awareness comparable to himself. Conditions like feelings, fear, contempt, envy, vengeance, outrage, corruptions, and absence of discretion might be named as highlights of madness in clinical term. In a portion of these circumstances individual may turn into a subject to be conceded in a psychological emergency clinic. According to law these perspectives are not taken into consideration. Law perceives just those conditions as of unsound mind which hinders the cognitive thinking of a person. Absence of a thought process or thinking ahead is viewed as standards for deciding unsoundness of mind.

It is recommended that there ought to be a very much characterized meaning of the term ‘mental insanity’ to maintain a strategic distance from the different debates and disarrays that emerge in comprehension and separating between the ‘psychological ailment’ and the real madness of brain looked for by the Code or the supposed ‘legitimate insanity’ so as to make the protection accessible to the blamed.

The extent of Section 84 ought to be extended to fuse the guard of automatism under the barrier of an undesirable brain, similarly as it is perceived by the English criminal law framework.


[2] Section 84 of IPC.

Author Details:

Amisha Upadhyay is a student at NMIMS, University.

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

Source: Jus Weekly, May 20202, Issue 1


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