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Crimes Insanity and Intoxication in IPC

By girishde Mar 19, 2014 5309 Words


This project deals with a few of the general defences that are enshrined in Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code. These general exceptions absolve certain persons from criminal liability due to what are seen to be extenuating circumstances. In other words, these are a form of defence for people who due to certain inability are deemed incapable of having committed the crime with both guilty mind and an overt act that accompanies the thought into action, as in the famous maxim; “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”

This project further, specifically deals with Sec.84, Sec.85 and Sec. 86. These three sections provide defences for crimes committed under the influence of alcohol, i.e. intoxication and unsoundness of mind. These are seen to be crimes where a person is unable to form adequate mens rea. These concepts will be taken up in detail and followed by a study of these defences and how they are applied by jurisdictions across the world. General Exceptions: Analysis

The chapter of general exceptions is seen as an override and limiting factor to the penal provisions of the Indian Penal Code. It is a blanket excuse available to all offences. This can clearly be seen from Sec. 6 of the IPC which enunciates that all the penal provisions of the IPC assume the absence of the extenuating circumstances that are incorporated in this chapter. Thus the court is mandated to read every offence with the provisions of general exceptions and only then decide upon the liability or culpability of a crime. Whether or not the accused takes a plea under the general exceptions, the court is bound by statutory duty to consider if the offence committed is covered under any of the general exceptions. One of the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Thus, there is an overwhelming burden on the prosecution to prove every aspect of the crime- actus reus, mens rea, causation, motive etc. the standard of proof is very high, and the prosecution must prove the guilt of a person beyond reasonable doubt. Section 105, of the Indian Evidence Act places the burden of proving that the case falls within the purview of general exceptions, on the shoulders of the accused. Furthermore, the court cannot in any case suo moto presume the existence of the circumstances. Section 103 of the Indian Evidence Act also provides that if a person wishes to make the court believe in the existence of a fact, the burden of proof lies solely on him. The standard of the proof though is far less burdensome than the Prosecution’s. The accused has to merely bring onto record sufficient material, so as to cast doubt on the Prosecution’s case and establish that there is a reasonable probability that the defence as stated by the accused existed.

This is one of the general exceptions provided in the IPC, as stated in: Section 84: 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. Introduction

The foundation of the law of insanity was born in the House of Lords in 1843, in the McNaughton case. 1 The case involved a person by the name of McNaughton (the accused), who had a delusion that he had been injured by the Prime Minister, Robert Peel. The accused then mistook the Prime Minister’s Secretary to be the Prime Minister and shot and killed him. He pleaded insanity when brought to trial, which was subsequently proved by a medical examination. The court pronounced him ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’. This led to lot of public outcry and became a topic of debate in the House of Lords. They laid down a set of principles called McNaughton’s Rules, by which a mentally ill defendant may be considered insane if, at the time of the act, he did not understand the nature and quality of the act or did not know the wrongfulness of the act. This was a landmark standard which endured world over for nearly 100 years, until the oncoming of the next big step in the determination of insanity which came up in the US in 1929, in the state of Columbia, where in the Court of Appeals supplemented the seemingly harsh ‘right or wrong’ test that was the McNaughton’s test. They added an "irresistible impulse" test. Under this new standard the defendant was to be immune from liability for his actions if it was proved that he was "impelled to do the act by an irresistible impulse." That is, if "his reasoning powers were so far dethroned by his diseased mental condition as to deprive him of the will power to resist the insane impulse to perpetrate the deed, though knowing it to be wrong," The next development in the insanity defence came with the case Durham v. U. S.2 In the case, the accused Monte Durham had a long history of mental disorder which included an eviction from the Navy on such criteria. This was followed by conviction on several charges like passing bad checks and motor theft for which he intermittently served sentences as he was taken to psychiatry checks, due to attempt to suicide. He also committed several parole violations when left free. The court tried to formulate a definition of lunacy following this case in an attempt to clearly differentiate between the insane and non - insane. Simply stated, the Durham rule holds that an accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act was the product of a "mental disease or defect." " The Durham rule was designed to broaden the scope of the pre-existing tests of insanity and help the psychiatric experts better testify.

Insanity Plea in India
The insanity defence has been embodied in section 84 of the IPC. It follows the principles laid down in McNaughton’s rules. The word insanity has not been specifically mentioned and instead the term unsoundness of mind is used. According to the interpretation by the Indian courts they both mean the same, as they refer to ‘a defect of reason arising from a disease of mind’. The most important facet of this defence is that a person must be proven to insane at the time of the commission of the act, and his mental status before or after the act is of no value in the eyes of the law. Also, this defence is only concerned with legal insanity and not with medical insanity. There are many types of medical insanity which are not recognised by law, simply because they may not sufficiently disturb a person’s judgement to claim that he was unaware of his actions or their repercussions. Even a mentally insane person is known to have periods of sanity, which are referred to as lucid intervals. Thus, unless the person is proven to be insane at the moment of the commission of the act only then is he absolved of liability for it. Law divides insanity into two types, namely dementia naturalis (insane from birth) and dementia adventitia (insane after birth). There are basically no hard and fast rules to define ‘legal insanity’; it is done on a case to case basis by courts, relying completely on the facts. This law however does not cover the cases in which a person has delusions or hallucinations. This arose from the case Manickam v. Unknown3. In this case the accused had deluded himself into believing that a woman who was muttering curses as she tried to search for a bird she had lost, was actually cursing him and in response cut her throat with a curved knife he was holding. Witnesses saw this incident and also later saw him cleaning the knife and he was hence subsequently caught. The Bombay High Court, while convicting him said that these delusions though indicative of mental unsoundness were not sufficient to exempt the accused from liability as he was well aware of what he was doing. He was hence given a lesser sentence of transportation for life. Somnambulism or sleep walking on the other hand is granted exemption from liability, arising from the case Pappathi Ammal v. Unknown4, in which the mother in a state of sleep walking took her child into a well and left her there, leading to its drowning. The court took into regard the works of various medical sources like M, A. Kamath's Medical Jurisprudence, Modi's Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology and R.C. Ray's Outlines of Medical Jurisprudence coming to the conclusion that sleep walking was very much an instance of unsoundness of mind as the person is not in any condition to know the nature or consequences of his actions. Other criteria like the lack of a suitable motive, as in the overt act done for a seemingly trifling matter; or use of excessive or unusual force; irresistible impulse, annoyance, agitation or fury are not considered to be valid grounds for the defence of insanity as in all such cases the person is still in control of his actions to an extent and knows as to the nature of his actions and what they will lead to, as in repercussions. This has been sufficiently looked into and the questions raised on these have been answered by the various courts in India in cases like Raja Gopala v. Unknown5, Gour Chandra v. State of Orissa6, Sheralli Wali Mohammed v. State of Maharashtra7 and Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat.8 It can be seen from several case though, that in India the plea of insanity has by and large only cautiously been accepted. Kuzhiyaramadiyil Madhavan v. State9, in this case the accused seemingly murdered a person without any previous enmity or any motive; this though is seen as insufficient to prove insanity. Furthermore, there were no reliable witnesses of the murder and thus there seemed to be no reason on the part of the accused to strike down the deceased, a 65 year old woman. The court though dismissed the appeal and went on to convict the accused with no reduction of sentence. State of Maharashtra v. Umesh Krishna Pawar 10, the case involves a gruesome crime where the accused raped a 4 year old girl after taking her to a lonely place and then threw her into a canal. The girl was subsequently saved, but the accused claimed insanity as a defence to his actions. There was a lot of medical evidence brought forth in the court but it was all quashed by the judges and the accused was convicted.

Insanity Plea in England
In England, the insanity plea began as far back as the thirteenth century with the standards set by Lord Bracton, who set forth the notion of “mental deficiency in human behaviour”. Equating the individual in such cases to a wild beast, a standard was set according to which the defendant had to prove that his understanding did not surpass that of a wild beast. This was followed in 1843, by the famous McNaughton’s Rules which helped better clarify the concept of insanity in legal terms. In 1913, the Mental Deficiencies Act defined four levels of ‘mental defective’, applicable only to those who had mental problems since early age. They were namely: Idiots – So deeply defective in mind as to be unable to guard against common physical dangers. Imbeciles – People incapable of managing their own affairs Feeble Minded – Adults became incapable of providing their own care, supervision and protection for themselves or others. Moral Defectives – People with some permanent mental defect coupled with vicious personalities on which no punishment had any effect. Further development took place in the insanity plea, by 1987, courts were mandated by the Mental Health Act to admit insane people in a mental health hospital for an indefinite period. Some of the cases of the time influenced the development of the insanity plea in England, namely: In the case R v Kemp 11, The defendant attacked his wife brutally with a hammer, suddenly, with seemingly no motive, purely on a sudden impulse. The medical evidence produced showed that he suffered from arterial sclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This was seen as sufficient reason to acquit him on grounds of ‘disease of mind’. This led to the formulation of the grounds that if a person suffered from a disease that threatened mental faculties he could be exempt on grounds of insanity. In the case R v Clarke12, The defendant was a diabetic who had committed the crime of shoplifting. She claimed that she had no intention to do the act and it was done in a state of absent-mindedness. There was also proof of the defendant having a track record of being similarly absent minded at home. The judge was convinced of the defendant’s case, but the court of appeal decided that this was not covered in the McNaughton Rules and hence the defendant was held liable. This led to the principle that simple lack of motive cannot be held as ample grounds to exempt a person on the grounds of insanity. In the case of R v Bell 13, the defendant had deluded himself into believing that a holiday camp was in fact a secret society, for which he had instructions from god, to destroy or strike at it. This led to him driving a car into the camp area and being charged with reckless driving. The court in its decision decided that faith was indeed a reasonable man’s view and these delusions were not enough to exempt the defendant of liability on grounds of insanity. The insanity plea across the world has been influenced from the views of the English. Several countries still use the McNaughton Rules as a basis for determining if a person is insane in legal terms or not. Most of the colonised nations have in some form retained the principles of the English legal system and only the United States of America is seen to have a vividly distinct form from this system.

Insanity Plea in the US
In the US, there was a constant change in the system of the insanity plea. It arose from the decisions of several cases involving high profile crimes, which time and again forced the lawmakers to change and adapt the law to the situation. Some of the cases like that of Richard Lawrence (1835), Daniel Sickles (1859) and John Schrank (1912) all furthered the concept of the insanity plea in their own ways, bringing forth the concept of medical evidence being used before trial to send a charged to asylum and temporary insanity. This was followed by the famous Durham case of 1929 which helped to set a definite legal perspective to what insanity meant and how it was to be judged in terms of medical evidence. The most famous case of insanity arose in the 1980s, in the trial of Hinckley. The case United States v. Hinckley14, in this case the accused shot the President Ronald Reagan, as he was inspired by the movie Taxi Driver where a man does the same. This was in fact done to impress the actress in the movie who he had been stalking. He tracked the President to a hotel entrance and opened fire with a gun killing four people including the President. He was acquitted on the insanity plea though, which led to a large public outcry on how this defence was just a loophole in the law. This led to the passing of the Insanity Defence Reform Act, which tightened federal standards, making it harder to avail the insanity defence. Also, 30 of the 50 US states tightened insanity standards following this decision. The next major case that came up was that of Jeffrey Dahmer, who was a serial killer who committed acts of seemingly monstrous nature like necrophilia and cannibalism. He killed over 15 people in a brutal fashion. At his trial he did not even try to plead against his crimes for which there was overwhelming evidence and plead insanity. This plea was quashed as he was established to be legally sane and he was sentenced to 15 life sentences. This led to questioning of the legal system on the fact that if these acts did not qualify to be called insane then what is? , it was also seen as the death of the insanity plea in the US. The last of the cases in the development of the insanity plea in the US, is the case of Andrew Goldstein. In this case the accused was a medically certified schizophrenic and had a history of trying to commit to hospitals but committing crimes when released, like pushing a woman in front of a train to her death. He was ultimately sentenced to 25 years in prison though he pled insanity. In response to the Goldstein case, the New York legislature enacted and "outpatient commitment" statute known as" Kendra's Law" which authorizes courts to force mentally ill people living in the community to take medication. In conclusion, it can be said that the insanity plea is one which has a very vague and uncertain line. It is very difficult to decide what attributes to and is considered ‘legal insanity’. There have been several attempts over the years to try and formulate a definite set of principles or guidelines to decide whether a person is insane or not, but so far there has been no successful or comprehensive answer.

In the IPC the defence on the grounds of intoxication is provided in Section 85 : Act of a person incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will, Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, is, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law: provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will. Section 86 : Offence requiring a particular intent of knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated, In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will. Introduction

When a person consumes alcohol, it diminishes his mental capacity and this can be seen to reduce the functioning of the brain. This in turn reduces the inhibitions we generally have on how we behave in society. This could make otherwise sane and normal person act in ways he never would. This is seen to be the basis of the defence of intoxication. The fact that a person may under the influence of alcohol commit a wrong, which he never may otherwise, is seen to be a valid reason to provide a defence. This defence though has been questioned severely on the grounds that most criminals do consume alcohol and especially before committing crimes it is very common. Thus, this could be used as a loophole in the law. On the other hand, it seems harsh to treat a person who has impaired judgement same as all other offenders. Indian Perspective

In India, voluntary intoxication is regarded on the basis that if a person tries to intoxicate himself of his own will, he can be held liable for all his actions as he is understood to have known the risks of intoxicating himself and thereby the sections in the IPC provide only for cases of involuntary intoxication. This arose from the case DPP v Beard15, in this case the accused raped a 13 year old girl and to stop her screaming, placed a hand on her mouth which led to her dying by suffocation. The judges while reviewing this case decided that thought the accused was too drunk to realise his actions, he will be liable to an extent due to intoxicating himself voluntarily. So, though the accused was not convicted of homicide, he was convicted of manslaughter which is seen to be murder without malice. Another important case in the development of this doctrine is DPP v Majewski16, where the accused had consumed large amounts of alcohol and drugs before assaulting several officers. When the case came up in front of the Court of Appeal it was dismissed on the grounds that the intoxication was voluntary. Thus, a doctrine was also set with this case that in case of voluntary intoxication, if the offender was so drunk as to be unable to form the requisite mens rea for the crime, his recklessness of consuming alcohol will suffice as proof of his guilt. The case of R v Lipman17 also further established this doctrine. In this case the accused and the deceased were addicted to drugs. They both were in a state of inebriation when the accused suddenly struck the deceased on the head and suffocated her by stuffing a bed sheet in her mouth. He claimed to have been in a delusional state at the time of the act. The court convicted him of manslaughter as it does not require a specific intent. These cases help set a definite standard for how to decide who should be exempt under the general exception of intoxication. There are three basic criteria that a person has to satisfy in order to avail the defence of intoxication in section 85 of the IPC: 1. That he was unaware of the nature and consequences of his actions. 2. That he did not realise that his act was wrong or contrary to law. 3. That the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him against his will or without his knowledge. These criteria are there to ensure that only people intoxicated beyond reasonable amounts can avail this defence. The mere fact of involuntary intoxication is not enough to absolve a person of liability. The intoxication must also be to such an extent that the accused cannot in his mind judge whether the act he is doing is right or wrong. This was established through the case of Chet Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh18, where the court explicitly held that involuntary intoxication must be proven by the accused in order to avail the defence in section 85. Also, in involuntary intoxication the other necessary element is that the intoxication must be against the will of the person or administered to him unknowingly. This basically means that the defendant should have no knowledge of intoxication or should be coerced into intoxicating himself. In Bablu Mubarik Hussain v. State of Rajasthan19, this was held to be the deciding factor on which the liability of an accused is decided. The accused in this case had voluntarily intoxicated and then killed his wife and children. The Supreme Court while rejecting his plea said that involuntary intoxication must be proved by the accused in order to avail the defence under section 85. The concept of voluntary intoxication is dealt in section 86 of the IPC. In this section, there is a reference to the fact that in case of self- intoxication, the accused is given some immunity as he is considered incapable of forming ‘particular knowledge or intention’ to commit an offence of that degree, like murder. Only knowledge and not intention on the part of the accused is presumed. Though, voluntary drunkenness is given a little exemption, it is no way a defence for any offence. If such a defence were allowed it would be a call for the commission of crimes with impunity. This was established in State of Orissa v. Kabasi Suba 20. In section 86, the criterion that is used to decide the culpability of a person is that: (i) The prosecution has to prove that in spite of drunkenness the accused had intention to commit the act forbidden by law. (ii) Sometimes intention on the part of the person who is drunk can also be assessed from the nature of weapon used in the com­mission of the offence. If a person uses a weapon which is not dangerous and the attack results in death, a malicious intention cannot be drawn against him even though drunkenness is no excuse. These both arose from the case of Mirza Ghani Baig v. State of Andhra Pradesh21, in which the accused in a drunken state set fire to his wife, and was hence convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder on account of his inebriation. There were also invalidated claims by the prosecution, of previous such drunken violence on the part of the accused. This proof though did not seem sufficient to attach intention on the part of the accused to commit a crime and he was hence not convicted for murder.

As in all cases of general exceptions, the burden of proof lies with the accused. He must prove that his actions were done under the influence of alcohol, that he was in no condition to judge his actions and that the substance which intoxicated him had been administered to him involuntarily. Recently, though, there has been a call for reform of the laws on intoxication in India. The sections of the IPC dealing with intoxication seem to overlap and hence, the Law Commission of India, in its forty second report, proposed a combined section of sorts.

Intoxication in US
Most state jurisdictions in the US recognize the intoxication defence. There is a vital distinction, however, between voluntary and involuntary intoxication. Voluntary intoxication does not excuse criminal conduct, but it is still used only in very few cases to negate the mens rea element of criminal activity. There is a further distinction between general intent crimes, where the accused intended only to perform an action, but not necessarily the one that resulted; and specific intent crimes, which require proof that the accused intended to perform the specific criminal act that he has been charged with.  Thus, in the US legal system, voluntary intoxication, including that resulting from habitual drug or alcohol consumption, is normally not a defence to general intent crimes like assault and battery. However, voluntary intoxication may be used as proof that the defendant did not mean to perform a specific criminal act, such as murder, and can serve as evidence to negate the mens rea element of specific intent crimes. The voluntary intoxication defence is often asserted in homicide cases to disprove pre-meditation, deliberation, or intent to kill on behalf of the defendant. Involuntary intoxication is the result of coerced intoxication, mistake as to the nature of substance consumed, intoxication from prescribed medication, or pathological intoxication. In common law, it could excuse criminal liability of any resulting actions by the defendant. Some jurisdictions treat involuntary intoxication like temporary insanity, a diminished capacity defence. The US Model Penal Code distinguishes three types of intoxication: voluntary, pathological, and involuntary. Voluntary intoxication can serve as a defence to criminal conduct if it negates an element of a crime, usually mens rea. The Model Penal Code does not distinguish between specific and general intent crimes so the mens rea defence is applied broadly. In crimes with a “reckless” element, however, the defence is not available if, as a result of the voluntary intoxication, the defendant was not conscious of a risk that he would have been had he not been intoxicated. Both pathological and involuntary intoxication may serve as an affirmative defence. Some of the cases seen in the US include that of Montana v. Egelhoff22, in which the accused was a part of a drinking party, after which he was travelling back in the passenger’s seat as two of the sober people were sitting in the front seat. The car they were travelling back crashed as the accused shot both the driver and the other passenger, killing them. He pleaded intoxication as a defence, but was denied on the grounds that the intoxication was voluntary.  

The defence of intoxication is treated in a similar fashion across the world, the penal codes of England, Sri Lanka all incorporate a defence for involuntary intoxication and voluntary intoxication is condemned across the board. Even in places where there are no specific statutes to deal with this, as in the case of Canada, there is provision for exemption from liability as there cannot be a mental element to the crime. Intoxication is considered by many to be a social evil, but the law must always act as an impartial judge and this defence is a prima facie example of this. Conclusion

Insanity and intoxication seem to have a relation and to an extent they are similar, because both show an absence of mens rea. In case of insanity also a person is judged incapable of knowing the nature or consequences of his actions. Only the reason for this view varies. In case of insanity it is ‘unsoundness of mind’ and in case of intoxication it is the state of inebriation caused by consumption of alcohol. The case of Basdev v. State of Pepsu, best exemplifies the relation between intoxication and insanity. In this case, the accused was a heavily drunk retired military officer, who was attending a marriage party. On arriving there, the officer asked a 15 year old boy to vacate a comfortable seat for him and on refusal by the boy, promptly took out a pistol and shot him in the stomach. The wound proved to be fatal. The officer was charged with murder and convicted for it, though he pled that it was only due to the influence of alcohol which had led him to a state of temporary insanity. The court, rejecting his plea said that, even after his intoxication he was in a state to judge his actions as after the murder he tried to leave the marriage function on his own. Here, the court only presumed knowledge on part of the accused and established that he had the requisite intention before convicting him. Thus, the exemptions provided to the accused on the basis of intoxication and insanity are in every sense justified as, not doing so would be a return to the ancient ideology of not even considering the mental element to determine the guilt of an accused and judging him solely on his actions. This would be seen as a gross violation of the most fundamental principle of criminal law: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”23

Online Sources
Kristin Neville, “The Insanity defence: A comparative study”, Found at William and Mary Law Review, “Criminal Responsibility: The Durham Rule” Found at All cases relating to India taken from, Asif Tufal, “Cases relating to Insanity”,

Found at
And “Cases on Intoxication”
Found at “Other Notorious Cases”, A PBS published article,
Found at Irish Law Reform Commission, “Consultation Paper on Intoxication as a

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