26 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Devidas Loka Rathod Vs. State of Maharashtra

MANU/SC/0667/2018

02.07.2018

Criminal

Law presumes that, every person committing an offence is sane and liable for his acts, though in specified circumstances, it may be rebuttable

The Appellant assails his conviction under Section 302 and 324 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), rejecting his defence that he was of unsound mind. The Additional Sessions Judge, rejected the defence plea for unsoundness of mind, citing insufficient evidence relying on the evidence of Doctor that, the Appellant was not mentally sick and fit to face trial. The subsequent conduct of the Appellant while in custody, his demeanour during the trial, were further relied upon to conclude that, the Appellant was conscious of his wrongful acts which were deliberate in nature, evident from the repeated assaults and running away from the place of occurrence after throwing the sickle. The High Court declined to interfere with the conviction.

P.W. 14, in his examination-in-chief, stated that the Appellant was caught immediately after he made the assault on 26th September, 2006 and brought to the police station. The FIR was registered the same day. But the Appellant was taken in custody only on 28th September, 2006 because he was not keeping well and had been admitted in the hospital. The information of his arrest was not given to his sister or mother, but only to his friend, who has not been examined. In view of the previous history of insanity of the Appellant as revealed, it was the duty of an honest investigator to subject the Accused to a medical examination immediately and place the evidence before the court and if this is not done, it creates a serious infirmity in the prosecution case and the benefit of doubt has to be given to the accused, as observed in Bapu v. State of Rajasthan.

The admitted facts in the present case strongly persuades that, the prosecution has deliberately withheld relevant evidence with regard to the nature of the Appellant's mental illness, his mental condition at the time of assault, requiring hospitalization immediately after the assault and hindering his arrest, the diagnosis and treatment, the evidence of the treating doctor, all of which necessarily casts a doubt on the credibility of the prosecution evidence raising more than reasonable doubts about the mental condition of the Appellant. Unfortunately, both the trial Court and the High Court, have completely failed to consider and discuss this very important lacuna in the prosecution case, decisively crucial for determination or abjurement of the guilt of the Appellant. 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.

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. But this onus 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, as observed in Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand, after which the onus shall shift on the prosecution to establish the inapplicability of the exception. But, it is not every and any plea of unsoundness of mind that will suffice.

If from 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, he shall be entitled to the benefit of the reasonable doubt and consequent acquittal. The trial judge erred in proper consideration and appreciation of evidence, virtually abjuring all such evidence available raising doubts about the mental status of the Appellant at the time of commission of the offence, so as to leave his conviction as a foregone conclusion. The Appellant has been able to create sufficient doubt that, he is entitled to the benefit of the exception under Section 84 of IPC because of the preponderance of his medical condition at the time of occurrence, as revealed from the materials and evidence on record. The prosecution cannot be said to have established its case beyond all reasonable doubt. Appellant is therefore entitled to the benefit of doubt and consequent acquittal. The appeal is allowed.

Relevant

Vijayee Singh v. State of U.P., MANU/SC/0284/1990
, Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand, MANU/SC/0018/2011
, Bapu v. State of Rajasthan, MANU/SC/7754/2007

Tags : Conviction Mental state Benefit of doubt

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