SC on Burden of Proof in case of Plea of Insanity

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1490

July 06, 2018

Case name: Devidas Loka Rathod v. State of Maharashtra

Date of Judgment: July 06, 2018

In this recent case, the Supreme Court discussed the law pertaining to plea of insanity under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court in the case has also discussed some important judgments highlighting the law.

In this recent case the Appellant assailed his conviction under Section 302 and 324 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), whereby the Trial Court rejected his defence that he was of unsound mind, citing insufficient evidence relying on the evidence of Dr. Sagar Srikant Chiddalwar, that the appellant was not mentally sick and fit to face trial.

In view of the facts and circumstances, the Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court stated that the Appellant was entitled to the benefit of the exception under section 84 of the Indian Penal Code because of the preponderance of his medical condition at the time of occurrence.

Section 84 of the IPC carves out an exception, that an act will not be an offence, if done by a person, who at the time of doing the same, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or what he is doing is either wrong or contrary to law.

Other observations made by the Supreme Court in the case were:

Doctrine of burden of proof in the context of the plea of insanity– That the law undoubtedly presumes that every person committing an offence is sane and liable for his acts, though in specified circumstances it may be rebuttable.

While elaborating on the doctrine of burden of proof in the context of the plea of insanity, the Apex Court made reference to the case of Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat[1], wherein the Supreme Court observed that there is a rebuttable presumption that the accused was not insane, when he committed the crime, in the sense laid down by Section 84 of the IPC: the accused may rebut it by placing before the court all the relevant evidence oral, documentary or circumstantial, but the burden of proof upon him is no higher than that rests upon a party to civil proceedings.

That the onus is on the accused, under Section 105 of the Evidence Act is not as stringent as on the prosecution to be established beyond all reasonable doubts. The accused has only to establish his defence on a preponderance of probability[2], after which the onus shall shift on the prosecution to establish the inapplicability of the exception.

Test to be Legal Insanity and not Medical Insanity– That it is not that every and any plea of unsoundness of mind that will suffice. The standard of test to be applied shall be of legal insanity and not medical insanity[3]. The crucial point of time for considering the defence plea of unsoundness of mind has to be with regard to the mental state of the accused at the time the offence was committed collated from evidence of conduct which preceded[4].

That the appellant has been able to create sufficient doubt in our mind that he is entitled to the benefit of the exception under Section 84 of the IPC because of the preponderance of his medical condition at the time of occurrence, as revealed from the materials and evidence on record.

In view of the facts and evidence adduced in the case, the Supreme Court was of the view that by the materials placed on record, a reasonable doubt is created in the mind of the Court with regard to the mental condition of the accused at the time of occurrence, and he shall be entitled to the benefit of the reasonable doubt and consequent acquittal.

The entire case can be accessed here.

 

[1] (1964) 7 SCR 361

[2] Surendra Mishra vs. State of Jharkhand, (2011) 11 SCC 495

[3] State of Rajasthan vs. Shera Ram, (2012) 1 SCC 602,

[4] Ratan Lal vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1970) 3 SCC 533,