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criminal_laws:insanity

Insanity as a General Defence

Introduction

If a man was deprived of power of reasoning so as not to be able to distinguish whether it was right or wrong to commit the most wicked transaction, he could not certainly do an act against the law. Any act to be considered as criminal requires two essentials. Those are necessary to decide the criminal liability of the accused. Those are:

  1. Actus Reus (a criminal act) and
  2. Mens Rea (guilty mind).

There are series of defences to criminal liability. One is the defence of insanity.

Not guilty because of insanity

Meaning

Insanity as a defence is in respect of legal insanity and not medical insanity. The same principles is presently recognised by many nations like the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada, the United States etc. In India, the defence of insanity is accepted in Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 84 states:

“Nothing in an offence which is done by a person who at the time of doing it, because of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing any act which is either wrong or contrary to law.”

General Exception in Section 84 provides the following principles:

  1. A person has done an act which would have been an offence.
  2. At the time of doing such act, he is incapable of knowing the nature of the act either wrong or contrary to law or
  3. At the time of doing such act, he is incapable of knowing the nature of the act either wrong or contrary to law
  4. Such incapacity is because of unsoundness of mind at the time of doing such act.
  5. Such act is not an offence.

Actus Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

Section 84 is based on basic principles or rules of criminal jurisprudence i.e. “Actus Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea”. This legal maxim means that the act does not make anyone guilty unless the accused had a criminal intention or committed the act with a guilty mind. If an offence is committed by an individual who is proved to be of an insane mind, then it is considered that the accused had no mindfulness or rational thinking or guilty intention to commit a criminal act. The accused is not held liable for any criminal liability.

In order to get the benefit of the provisions of Section 84 three elements are considered necessary or any one of which must be established by the accused, because of unsoundness of mind, was,

  1. Incapable of knowing the nature of the act.
  2. The act was contrary to law.
  3. The act was wrong.

Principles for the Application of the Section

The following principles are to be kept in mind in applying this section:

  1. every type of insanity is not legal insanity; the cognitive faculty must be destroyed as to render one incapable of knowing the nature of his act or that what he is doing is wrong or contrary to law;
  2. the court shall presume the absence of such insanity;
  3. the burden of proof of legal insanity is on the accused, though it is not as heavy as the prosecution;
  4. the court must consider whether the accused suffered from legal insanity at the time when the offence was committed;
  5. in reaching such a conclusion, the circumstances which preceded, attended or followed the crime are relevant consideration; and
  6. the prosecution in discharging its burden in the face of the plea of legal insanity has merely to prove the basic fact and rely upon the normal presumption of law that everyone knows the law and the natural consequences of his act.

In dealing with insanity, following principles have to be borne in mind:

  1. Unsoundness of mind as contemplated by s 84, IPC, is legal insanity which requires that cognitive faculties of the accused are such that he does not know what he has done or what will follow from his act.
  2. The court shall presume absence of insanity.
  3. To get the benefit of s 84, IPC, the accused must establish any one of the three elements, necessary under the section, incapability of knowing
    1. the nature of the act,or
    2. that the act was contrary to law or
    3. that it was wrong.

It must be born in mind that there is a clear distinction between legal insanity and medical insanity. Courts are concerned with the legal insanity and not with the medical view of the question. A man may be suffering some form of insanity in the sense in which the term is used by medical men but may not be suffering from unsoundness of mind as described in Section 84. If the facts of a case showed that the accused knew that he had done something wrong, though he might be insane from the medical point of view, he could not be exonerated under section 84 IPC.

In Gour Chandra v. State of Orissa, 1990(1) Crimes 168 It was observed that “it is only legal insanity that furnishes ground for exemption from criminal liability. There can be no legal insanity unless the cognitive faculty of the accused is, as a result of unsoundness of mind, completely impaired. In order to constitute legal insanity the unsoundness of mind must be such as to make offender incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he is doing an act contrary to law.”

Similarly in Sankaran v. The State, 1994(2) Recent Criminal Reports 446 Kerala High Court observed that Insanity as contemplated by Section 84 IPC is disorder of conduct i.e. the process of adjusting the self to circumstances is deranged, Insanity is an incapacity to know the nature of act or to know that the act is wrong or contrary to law. Section 84 contemplates legal insanity and not medical insanity

M’Naghten rules

Section 84 in substance is similar as the M’Naghten rules. The reason is that there is very little distinction between section 84 and answers 2 and 3 of the M’Naghten rules. The answers to the questions are: “Every man is presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction, and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of committing the act, the accused was labouring under such a defect or disease of mind as not to know the nature and the quality of the act he was doing”. The distinction in Section 84 and answers 2 and 3 or the M’Naghten rule is very minor. The M’Naghten rules provide the terms “nature and quality” of the act whereas Section 84 does not provide the terms “Quality”. Likewise, the term “Contrary to Law” used in Section-84 is not present in the M’Naghten rules. One more difference has also been found to exist between M’Naghten rules and Section 84 of Indian Penal code. That is in M’Naghten Rules Word ‘Insanity’ of accused is defined and explained. According to Stephen it is equivalent to unsoundness of mind, which is explained in Section 84 of Indian Penal code. This view was adopted in Amrit Bhushan Gupta V. V.O.I. & others AIR 1977 SC- 608.

So in order to establish insanity or unsoundness of mind it is necessary to prove that the cognitive faculties of the person are such that he does not know that what he has done or what would be the consequences ofhis act. M’Naghten rules refer to “disease of mind” while the Indian Penal code in its Section-84 uses the expression “unsoundness of mind.” This appears to cover not only any form of insanity or mental disease, but also any form of deficiency, like idiocy, imbecility and even feeble mindedness. It is apparent that Section 84 of the Indian Penal code has been drafted in the light of the answers of M’Naghten case. However, instead of the word “insanity”, the framers of the Indian Penal Code have preferred the term “unsoundness of mind” because ‘insanity’ has a very confined scope whereas “unsoundness of mind” is more comprehensive term. Any kind of mental derangement, caused by any reason whatever maybe, is unsoundness of mind but the same may not be insanity always. The framers of Indian Penal Code wished to give a very wide scope to the unstable mind while recognising the non compos mends, i.e. not of sound mind notion as a defence under the Indian Criminal law. Majority of the High Courts in India have interpreted Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code to use the “right and wrong” test propounded in M’Naghten case in England.

In Surya Prasad V. State of Orissa 1982 Cril.LJ. 931. the petitioner had been convicted under section 307 IPC and had been sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for four years on the allegation that he attempted to commit murder by stabbing a girl aged 15 years but was successful in his attempt. The motive was that the petitioner persuaded the victim girl to marry him but the girl refused. The accused raised the plea of insanity. The court relying on Dayabhai Chaggan Bhai Thakkar V. State of Gujrats AIR 1964 SC 1563. held that every type of insanity recognised in medical science is not legal insanity. There can be no legal insanity unless the cognitive faculties of mind are destroyed as a result of unsoundness of mind to such an extent as to render the accused incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that what he is doing is wrong or contrary to law. The pattern of crime, the manner and method of its execution and the behaviour of the offender after the commission of the crime furnish some of the important clues to ascertain whether the accused had no cognitive faculty to know the nature of the act or that what he was doing is either wrong or contrary to law. In order to determine the insanity of the accused, a court may rely not only on defence evidence but also on what is elicited from the prosecution witnesses as well as circumstantial evidence consisting of the previous history of the accused and his subsequent conduct in the surrounding circumstance including absence of motive. If the evidence produced raises a reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge as regards one or the other of necessary ingredients of the offence, the judge has to acquit the accused. In the present case the accused was hospitalized for unsoundness of mind three months before the occurrence and was recommended by the doctor for examination by a specialist and in the morning of the occurrence he quarreled with his mother and pelted brickbats and after stabbing the victim produced the knife before the police. All these facts showed that the accused was insane within the meaning of Section 84 and was directed to be released.

Position of Defence of Insanity in India

In India the law on the subject is laid down in s 84 of the IPC, the provisions of which are in substance the same as those laid down by the House of Lords in Daniel Mc naughten's case.

In the answer to the second and third questions put to them in that case, the learned judges laid down that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved that, at the time of committing the act the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong. Section 84 , IPC, borrowed this definition of unsoundness of mind which alone is recognised by law as a good defence to a crime.

This section has received strict interpretation, and is held as governing only those cases where the cognitive faculties of the accused are completely impaired. According to medical and legal authorities who have considered the subject of responsibility in mental disease, insanity affects not only the cognitive faculties of the mind which guide our actions, but also our emotions which prompt our actions, and the will by which our actions are performed. But our law, like the law of England, limits non-liability only to those cases in which insanity affects the cognitive faculties; because it is thought that those are the cases to which the exemption rightly applies, and the cases, in which insanity affects only the emotions and the will, subjecting the offender to impulses, whilst it leaves the cognitive faculties unimpaired, have been left outside the exception, because it has been thought that the object of criminal law is to make people control their sane as well as their insane impulses, or to use the words of Bramwell LJ in R v Hamphreys, 'to guard against mischievous propensities and homicidal impulses'.The section lays down the legal test of responsibility in cases of alleged unsoundness of mind, and it is by that test, as distinguished from the medical test, that the criminality of an act is to be determined. The defence of insanity is raised mostly in cases where the accused has been charged with offences under s 302 or s 304, IPC . Insane individuals seem to display a marked propensity for the commission of atrocious crimes. Their objects of attack have usually been those whom they had loved and cherished.

Insanity is not per se a Defence

Insanity is not per se a defence under s 84, IPC, which embodies the fundamental maxim of criminal law that an act does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intention. The section provides that 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. To establish that the act done is not an offence, it must clearly be proved that at the time of commission of the act, the accused was suffering from legal insanity as defined in the section. Under the section, a person is legally insane when he is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, i.e., the physical act, which is done, or that he is doing wrong or that he is doing what is contrary to law. There can be no legal insanity unless the faculties of the mind are, as a result of unsoundness of the mind, at the crucial time, so materially impaired that he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.

For purposes of criminal law, the emphasis is, therefore, on unsoundness of mind which incapacitates the person from knowing the nature of the act or that what he does is either wrong or contrary to law. The fact, that the accused caused the death of a child over a trifling matter would not warrant the conclusion that he was of unsound mind. The crucial point of time at which unsoundness of mind should be established is the time when the crime is actually committed, and the burden of proving this lies on the accused. The defence of insanity cannot be admitted upon arguments merely derived from the character of crime. The absence of motive or the attachment of accused with the victim, or the ghastly nature of the crime is not relevant consideration, in the absence of positive proof that the mental faculties of the appellant were materially impaired at the crucial time by reason of unsoundness of mind. Manifestations evidencing derangement of mental function by themselves do not offer relief from criminal responsibility

RECOMMENDATION OF 42nd REPORT OF LAW COMMISSION IN INDIA.

42nd Report of Law Commission of India recommended some amendments in Section 84 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. After considering law on insanity of many countries, the following questions were raised:- A) Should the existing provision (Section 84) relating to the defence of insanity be modified or expanded in any other way?

B) Should the test be related to the offender’s incapacity to know that the act is wrong or to his incapacity to know that it is punishable?

C) Should the defence of insanity be available in .cases where the offender, although aware of wrongful, or even criminal nature ofhis act, is unable to resist from doing because ofhis mental condition?

The majority of the views expressed in respect of question-A were strongly opposed to any variation in existing Section-84 of Indian Penal Code. Most of these replies seemed to assume that even theoretically, the present provision is adequate. Their opinions also stressed that the present provision caused no practical difficulty and if in a particular case not falling strictly within the terms of Section 84, the mental state of the accused was such as to deserve special consideration, it could be left to the prerogative powers of commutation and remission vested in the president and the Governor under Article 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution.

In respect of question B, the majority of the replies suggested no change. Some expressed the view that the test should be knowledge of what is wrong and others suggested that it should be knowledge of what is punishable by law.

As regards question-C, there was little assistance for specifically inserting ‘irresistible impulse’ in section 84 Indian Penal code. Some of the opinion considered that this was not strictly insanity. The main objection was that provision would make the trial of the issue more complicated for judges than the present provision. But some questions arising directly out of the language of section 84 of Indian Penal Code, M’Naghten rules refer to “disease of the mind” while Section 84 uses the term ‘unsoundness of mind’. This appears to cover not only any form of imbecility or mental disease, but also any form of mental incapability or mental disease, but also any form Of mental incapacity like idiocy, insanity and even feeble mindedness. A temporary delusion may also be considered as unsoundness of mind. It might be more appropriate with medical terminology to use both the terms “disease of mind” and “mental deficiency” in place of some what ambiguous and imprecise expression, “unsoundness of mind”.

How does one determine whether the individual is insane or not

The earlier cases decided by English courts on the law of insanity in order to discover the principles of law by which the relation of insanity to crime may be determined. Most of the cases were tried in the 18th and early 19th century.

Wild beast test

The earliest case is R V. Arnold (1724) 16 St.tr. 695. It was decided in 1724. Edward Arnold was tried for wounding and making an attempt on the life of Lord Onslow. There was enough evidence of the mental derangement of the accused. Tracy J. in directing the jury made the following observations:

“If he was under the visitation of God and could not distinguish between good and evil, and did not know what he did, though he committed the greatest offence, yet he could not be guilty of any offence against any law whatsoever. On the other side, we must be very cautious, it is not every kind of frantic humour, or something unaccountable in a man’s action, that points him out to be such a madman as is exempted from punishment; it must be a man that is totally deprived of his understanding and memory and does not know what he is doing, no more than an infant, than a brute or wild beast. Such a one is never the object of punishment”.

On this basis the jury found Arnold to be guilty. He was sentenced to death although, at Lord Onslow’s personal request his sentence was committed to life imprisonment. This test is known as wild beast test.

“Good and evil” responsibility

Rex. V. Lord Ferrers(1760) 19 St. Tr. 886. tried in 1760. Lord Ferrers shot and killed his steward against whom he cherished resentment. Lord Ferrers was tried before the House of Lord, who of course received no charge and gave no reasons. The solicitor General for the crown interpreted the doctrines of Lord Hale to mean “that total want of reason will acquit the prisoner, but that if there be a partial degree of reason and a competent use of it “sufficient to have restrained those passions which produced crime, if there be thought and design and faculty to distinguish between moral “good and evil” responsibility attaches”. The prisoner was found guilty and executed.

Delusion test Hadfield’s case

The case1) arose that challenged at least temporarily, the relationship between insanity and knowledge of good and evil. The decision in the case was considered a landmark because it rejected two concepts previously accepted by the court. It denied that the defendant must be totally deprived of all mental faculties before he could be acquitted and it severed the ties between insanity and ability to distinguish good from evil or right from wrong. The facts of the case were one Hadfield, a veteran of many wars who had been discharged from the army on the ground of insanity was tried for shooting at king George III in the Durry Lane theatre in 1800. It seems that he was suffering from systematized delusions that like the saviour, he was to sacrifice himself for the world’s salvation. He therefore shot at the king. By the appearance of crime, he might be executed and so perform the sacrifice he felt divinely called to make. He was defended by Lord Erskine, a brilliant criminal lawyer. In his address to jury, he introduced a new concept into the law namely the presence of delusion as a test of irresistibility. Erskine insisted that insanity was to be determined by the fact of fixed insane delusions. Such delusions under were the direct cause of his crime. In this case the delusion test was evolved.

Test of capacity to distinguish between right & wrong

In 1812 Bowler an epileptic shot and wounded one William Burroughes. There was every evidence to indicate that the prisoner suffered from insanity arising from epilepsy. The commission of lunacy had reported to that effect. The test of capacity to distinguish between right & wrong was formulated in awarding punishment to an unsound person. Ever since the decision in Bowler’s case the court had laid more stress on the capacity of the accused in distinguishing right from wrong though they had not get definitely formulated this test in very clear terms. In Bellingham’s case, the accused was charged for murder and a plea of insanity was set up by the accused. He was tried, sentenced and executed within a week of his action despite the evidence of his paranoid and deluded state. Sir James Mansfield, C.J. directed the jury that, in order to establish insanity as a defence, they had to consider whether the prisoner “had sufficient understanding to distinguish between good and evil, right from wrong and that murder was a crime not only against the law of God but against the law ofhis country.” In 1840, another case2) came up before Denman C.J., where Edward Oxford was tried for treason for discharging a loaded pistol at Queen Victoria. The learned C.J. charged the jury that, upon the whole, the question was whether the evidence showed that the prisoner was insane at the time the act was done, whether the evidence proved a disease which made him quite incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Oxford was acquitted on grounds of insanity. Ever since Bowler’s case the courts had laid more stress on the test of right and wrong.

M’Naghten principles “The Right and Wrong Test”

Facts of the case

Daniel M’Naghten, a Scotsman was tried for the murder of Edward Drummond. Private Secretary to Sir Robert Peel, the then Prime Minister Denial M’Naghten, was under an insane delusion that Sir Robert Peel had persecuted him and mistaking Drummond for Sir Robert Peel he shot and killed him. He was tried in London before Tindal C.J. and two other judges. He was defended by Mr. Cockbum who later on became the Lord Chief Justice of England. The accused pleaded insanity in his defence. The medical evidence produced in substance was that the prisoner was affected by morbid delusions. Such carried him beyond the power of his own control and left him with no perception of right and wrong. He was not capable of exercising any control over acts connected with his delusion.

The Chief Justice in his charge to the jury said that the question for them to be determined was whether at the time of committing the act he had or had not the use of his understanding so as to know that he was violating the law of God and man. The jury acquitted the prisoner on the ground of insanity. They had ordered that the prisoner be detained in Broadmoor mental institution where he remained until his death in May 1965. The trial of M’Naghten and his acquittal caused considerable sensation. It became the subject of debate in House of Lords and as a result the House of Lords called on fifteen judges to lay down the law on the subject of criminal responsibility in cases of alleged lunacy in answers to question propounded by them. Fourteen of the judges united in their answers. The opinion of the majority was delivered by Tindal C.J. These questions & answers are known as the M’Naghten Rules which form the basis of the modem law on insanity in England & India.

Issues

Question-1 What is law in respect of the alleged offences committed by the persons laboured with insane delusion in respect of one or more particulars subject or persons; eg. Where at the time of the commission of the alleged crime the accused knew he was acting contrary to law, but did the act complained of with a view, under the influence of insane delusion, of redressing revenging some supposed grievance or injury, or of producing some supposed public benefit? Answers: Assuming that your Lordship’s inquiries are confined to those persons who labour under such partial delusion only and are not in other respects insane we are of the opinion that not withstanding the accused did the act complained with a view, under the influence of insane delusion of redressing or revenging some supposed grievance or injury, or of producing' some public benefit, he neverthless punishable according to the nature of the crime committed, if he knew at the time of committing such crime that he was acting contrary to law, by which expression we understand your lordship to mean the law of the land.

2. What are the proper questions to be submitted to the jury where a person alleged to be afflicted with insane delusion respecting one or more particular subjects or persons is charged with the commission of a crime, eg. murder and insanity is set-up as a defence?

3. In what terms are the questions to be left to the jury as to the Prisoner’s state of mind, at the time when the act was committed?

As these two questions appear to us to be more conveniently answered together, we submit our opinion to be that the jury ought to be told in all cases that 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 to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act, the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong. The mode of latter part of the question to the jury on these occasions has generally been, whether the accused at the time of doing the act know the difference between right and wrong, which made though rarely, if ever leading to any mistake with the jury, is not, as we conscience so accurate when put generally and in the abstract, as when put with reference to the party’s knowledge of right and wrong in respect to every act which he is charged. If the question were to be put as to the knowledge of the accused solely and exclusively with reference to the law of the land, it might tend to confound the jury by inducing then to believe that an actual knowledge of the law of the land was essential in order to lead to a conviction; where as the law is administered upon the principle that everyone must be taken conclusively to know it, without proof of that he does know it, without proof of that he does know it. If the accused was conscious that the act was at the same time contrary to the law of the land, he is punishable and unusual course therefore has been to leave the question to the jury, whether the party accused had a sufficient degree of reason to know that he was doing an act that was wrong and this course we think is correct accompanied with such observation and explanations as the circumstances of each particular case may require.

Question 4. If a person under an insane delusion as to existing facts commits an offence in consequence thereof, is thereby excused?

Answer- The answer must depend on the nature of the delusion, but making the same assumption as we did before, namely that he labours under such partial delusions only and is not in other respects insane we think he must be considered in the same situation as to the responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real. For instance, if under the influence of his delusion he supposes another man to be in the act of attempting to take away his life, and he kills, that man as he supposes, in self defence, he would be exempted from punishment. If his delusion was that the deceased had inflicted a serious injury to his character and fortune and he killed him in revenge for such supposed injury, he would be liable to punishment.

Question-5- Can a medical man, Conversant with the disease of insanity who never saw the prisoner previously to the trial, but who was present during the whole trial and the examination of all the witnesses, be asked his opinion as to the state of the prisoner’s mind at the time of the of the commission of the alleged crime, or his opinion whether the prisoner was conscious at the time of doing the act that he was acting contrary to law, or whether he was labouring under any, and what delusion at the time?

Answer- The medical man, under the circumstances supposed cannot in strictness be called or asked his opinion in the tenns of above stated, because each of those question involves the ascertainment of the truth of the facts deposed to, which it is for the jury to decide and the questions are not mere questions upon a matter of science, in which such evidence is admissible. But where facts are admitted or not disputed and the question becomes substantially one of the science only, it may be convenient to allow the question to be put in that general form, though the same cannot be insisted on as a matter of right. After a careful consideration their lordship found M’Naghten not guilty on the ground of his mental insanity. Their lordship observed that every man is presumed to be sane and to possess sufficient degree of reason to be held responsible for his crime untill the contrary is proved. In order to establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act the accused was labouring under such a degree of reason from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know it he was doing what was wrong. In the opinion of Huda these answers although they do not amount to judicial decisions, have been and are still regarded an authoritative exposition of the law relating to insanity.

Summary

The answers given by the judges in M’Naghten case may be summarised in the following five rules:-

  1. That every man is presumed to be sane and to posses a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to the satisfaction of the court.
  2. In order to establish defence on ground of insanity it must be clearly shown that at the time of committing the act, the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.
  3. If the accused was conscious that the act was one which he ought not to do and if that act was at the same time contrary to the law of the land, he is punishable
  4. Where as criminal act is done by a man under some insane delusion as to the surrounding facts, which conceals him from the true nature of the act he is doing, he will be under same degree of responsibility as he would have been on the facts as imagined them to be.
  5. A medical witness who has not seen the accused before trial should not be asked on evidence whether he thinks that the accused was insane.

In M’Naghten case after a careful consideration their lordship found M’Naghten not guilty on the ground of his mental insanity.

The M’Naghten Rules are summary of the common law of England. They have no statutory basis. Despite this they have come to be regarded as the embodiment of the opinion of the majority of the judges at the time. It is of course at the time of their formulation of ideas about mental illness and the effects thereof upon the personality were far from accurate. The relationship of emotional disturbance to disordered behaviour appears not to have been known to the judges who insist throughout in their replies that “defect of reason” in the touchstone of insanity whereby the judge and jury will be guided to a correct decision. It is also evident that delusions are regarded as the obvious manifestation of defects of reason for little attention is paid to other terms ofinsanity to which delusional beliefs do not figure so prominently.

The test enunciated by the judge of England in M’Naghten case is known as “The Right and Wrong Test” and is applied today in England, India, Canada and practically all the American States.

The M’Naghten rules resolved the inconsistency in determining the sanity or insanity of accused at the time of commission of an offence. According to the M’Naghten case a human being is deemed as a rational human being if he can easily distinguish between right and wrong by applying his sense of reasoning. The lordship observes that every man is presumed to be sane and to possess sufficient degree of reason to be held responsible for his crimes until the contrary is proved. M’Naghten rules play a very vital role in determining the sanity and insanity of accused at the time of awarding punishment. M’Naghten test of criminality accept the basic weakness of an individual as a valid defence against his criminal prosecution or at least a sufficient ground for mitigation of his sentence to a certain extent.

In order to invoke the protection of M’Naghten rules the accused must prove the following things

1. He must show or prove that he was labouring or suffering from a disease of mind when he did the criminal or prohibited act or omission.

2. The defence is not concerned with the brain but with the mind, in the sense that the term is ordinarily used when speaking of the mental faculties of reasoning, memory and understanding. Disease of mind denotes a malfunctioning of the mind due to disease irrespective of the fact that whether the disease is curable or incurable, temporarily or permanent- R.V. Kemp (1957) 12B 399

3. When the question arises that whether an alleged disease is a disease of mind within the parameters of the M’Naghten rules is to be adjudged by the judge. Bratty V. Attorney General for Northern Ireland (1961) 3 AIIER. 523

4. It is sufficient to show that the accused should know that what he was doing was contrary to law– R.V. Windle 14 (1952) 2Q.B. 826. In Windle case the accused, a feeble minded man, induced his wife, who had at many times spoken of committing suicide, to consume a total dose of aspirin realising that this was contrary to law but thinking that it was beneficial for her and therefore, not morally wrong. His defence was of insanity. The trial judge refused to leave the question of insanity to the jury and consequently, the accused was convicted of murder. The accused appealed against his conviction to the court of criminal appeal. In the opinion of the court there was no doubt that in the M’Naghten rules “wrong” means contrary to law and not “wrong” as per the opinion of one man or of a number of people on the question of whether a particular act might or might not be justified. The court held that in such a case the accused’s own notions of right and wrong are irrelevant, his knowledge that his act was legally wrong prevented him from coming within the M’Naghten rules.

5. The accused must also show that he was suffering from a defect of reason due to disease of mind. It must be more than a momentary confusion and amount to a complete deprivation of the reasoning power- Clarke (1972)1 All E.R. 219 This disease of mind must affect his reasoning power to such an extent that it renders him insane for medical purpose- Reviett (1950) 34 Cr. App. Rep. 87. It must affect a person's capacity to appreciate what he was doing and whether it was lawful. In means it must affect his capacity to know the nature of the act or to distinguishing between right and wrong. In an English case RV Bruton (1863) 3 F.F. 772 the accused was seen near a boy who was playing in a public place, some hours afterwards the child’s dead body was found there, the throat was cut and there were marks of a violent struggle. The accused surrendered himself and admitted the act and recounted all the circumstances with perfect intelligence. He said that he had done the act through a morbid feeling that he was tired of life and wished to get rid of it. The court held that he was guilty of murder. M’Naghten rule does not apply to those individuals who retain the power of reasoning but in moment of confusion or absent mindness fail to use their power. Although with a healthy mind he nevertheless had been brought up in such a way that he had never learned to exercise his reason and therefore he is labouring under a defect of reason. R.V. Rivett (1950) 34 The main object in Lord Devlin’s judgment, was that it should be decided whether there was a ‘defect of reason’ which had been caused by a disease affecting the mind, if it were so determined then there would be insanity within the meaning ofthe rules ofM’Naghten case.

6. The ‘defect of reason’ must affect legal responsibility, something to which a person’s capacity to appreciate that what he was doing was wrong and whether it was lawful is highly relevant, and the accused must go on to prove that because of his insanity either he did not know he was doing wrong. In R. V. Clarke Cr. App. R. 87. 21 R.V. Clarke (1972) LAIL the accused Mrs. Clarke was charged with committing theft from super market in as much as she did not pay for the goods. She removed from markets and basket it to her own. She insisted that she had no intention to steal them and that she had acted in a fit of absent mindedness and depression resulting from diabetes. The assistant recorder ruled that he would not treat her defence by reason of insanity within the M’Naghten rules and she was convicted. She appeared to the court of Appeal. Ackner J. observed that in order to sustain a defence under the M’Naghten rules it is necessary to show that the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from the disease mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong. The court of Appeal admitted her plea that she had no intention to commit theft and that she acted in a movement of absent mindedness caused due to a diabetic depression brought on by sugar deficiency. The court ruled out that diabetic depression brought temporary fit of absent mindedness due to deficiency is a ‘defect of reason’ within the meaning ofM’Naghten rules. The judge did rely on Brathy V A.G. for Northern Ireland (1973) Q.B. 910. In that case Bratty had been accused of the murder of a young girl. He put forward three defences:-

i) That at the material time he was in a state of automatism due to an attack of psycho-motor epilepsy.

ii) That he was guilty only of man slaughter since he was incapable of forming an intent on the ground that his mental state was so impaired and confused and he was so deficient in reason that he was not capable of forming of such intent.

iii) That he was insane.

So the house of Lords adjudged on the evidence in “Brathy Care” that he had been right to rule as he did, but accepted that automation as distinct from insanity could be defence if there was a proper foundation in the evidence for it. In this case court held that “the accused is entitled to plead automatism but not insanity. In order to take protection of defence of insanity on the ground that the accused was suffering from a disease of the mind, any mental disorder which has manifested itself in violence and is prove to recur is a disease of the mind. A medical man conversant with the disease of insanity who never saw the prisoner previously to the trial but who was present during the whole trial and examination of the witness can’t be asked to give his opinion as to the state of prisoner’s mind at the time of the commission of the crime or his opinion whether the prisoner was conscious at the time of doing act, that he was acting contrary to law or he was labouring under any delusion at the time because these question involve the determination of the truth of the facts deposed to, which it is for the jury to decide. But where the fact are admitted or not disputed and the question becomes substantially one of the science only, it may be convenient to allow the questions to be put in that general form, though this can’t be insisted on as a matter of right. Therefore, it is necessary for the jury to reach the conclusion that at the time the offending act was committed the accused was deprived of his cognitive faculties to such extent that he was not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong or legal and illegal so that he could not be held responsible for his own action. So M’Naghten Rules 2nd Principle was always considered by the judges and jury in English cases and also in India.

1)
1800 27 St. Tr. 1282
2)
1840 9 C & P. 525


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