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Analysis Of Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 84

"IPC is an extensive code that covers every aspects of criminal law"

This code is based on the guidance of First law commission of India committee report under the chairmanship of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1834. The code was passed in 1860 and came into operation in 1862.

My Research is based on section 84 of the Indian penal code that provides insanity as a defense for the criminal acts committed by or during unsoundness of mind of a person.

SECTION 84 (IPC,1860):
'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."

It incorporates the value of some of the foundational maxims of criminal jurisprudence:
  • "Actus nonfacit reum nisi mens sit rea"
  • "An act of crime does not constitute guilt unless done with guilty intention"
  • "Furiosi nulla voluntas est"
  • "A person suffering from mental instability is not of free will and cannot commit a crime unless done with guilty intent"

Explanation:
  • This section covers the acts committed by a person of unsound mind or during the person's unsoundness where the person under question is incapable of judging weather an act is opposed to the law or knowing the nature and consequences of the act that the person commits.
  • This section serves as a defense of insanity (Law of insanity) as a person suffering with mental ailment isn't prudent according to normal standards and so is not able to think rationally and have a necessary guilty conscience.

There are two elements in section 84 to constitute legal insanity:
  • Major Element:
    Medical requirement of mental illness, the person must have mental illness during the commission of act.
  • Minor Element:
    Loss of reasoning. meaning the person is, Unable to know the consequences of the act or

    • Unable to judge if his act is wrong or
    • Unable to know it is against the law.

These criteria must be met for the defense plea of legal insanity. Medical insanity alone can't be a defense as loss of reasoning is required to be considered as legal insanity.

Every man is expected to be sane, to know the law and to be possessing sufficient reasonability for responsibility of his actions, the onus is on the defense attorney to prove insanity beyond any reasonable doubt.

Illustrations To Understand The Ambit Of This Section:
Illustration 1:
Lal ji was caught setting fire to the grass in an open land of Upra Pind, when he was questioned about it, he laughed and threw dust on people. Lal ji was charged under section 435 of the IPC. According to the doctor's report, he was a maniac. The report explicitly stated that the accused is:
  • Remains depressed,
  • He is a case of mental instability and psychosis
  • He requires treatment.

The defense counsel argued that the accused was legally insane during the committance of the act and he was of unsound mind, incapable to know the consequences of the act or know if it is wrong according to the law. This was supported by the report of the psychiatrist.

The court held that the defense of insanity to be applicable and gave two major factors to acquit the accused of the charges. Medical evidence provided and According to the behavior of the accused in past stated via evidence.

Illustration 2:
Rajat the accused lives with his wife Sharmila. She was married to him in the year 2010. The martial relationship between them was under strain because of indifference between them. On the night of March 18, 2011, the accused and his wife were sleeping and around 3 am, the Neighbours heard screams of Sharmila coming from their home and upon inquiry they found Sharmila dead inside with several wounds on her.

The accused was sent up for a trial on charge of murder. The defense set up by defense counsel was that the accused was of unsound mind when the incident took place and was not capable of understanding the nature of his act.

Arguments laid down further was that the accused was insane and was starting to act maniacally with unexplainable behavior. The accused was under a hallucination of his wife being guilty of his mother's death.

The court found the evidence to be unsatisfactory and charged the accused under section 302 of the IPC. It held that there was reasonable to believe there was mens rea on the part of the accused and the defense of legal insanity could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt as there was no substantial evidence or previous records to support this defense

Conclusion
Law concerning to insanity plea in India is well established and is inspected to the utmost importance so no false pleas can be admitted and no person with guilty mind can be acquitted of charges. Section 84 and the defense of insanity serves its purpose as the arguments related to this section are scrutinized very strictly. The onus of proving beyond reasonable doubt by the defense counsel makes it hard to use this as a loophole. Hence, the strict implementation of this by the courts protects the interests of the society.

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