When defence of unsoundness of mind of accused is not tenable?

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Crl. A. No. 2143 of 2009
Decided On: 13.01.2016

Uttam Nandram Somwanshi
Vs.
State of Maharashtra

Hon’ble Judges/Coram:V. Gopala Gowda and R.K. Agrawal, JJ.

Citation:(2016) 13 SCC205

1. The divergent finding of the Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Bench at Aurangabad, in Criminal Appeal No. 387 of 2006 dated 22.07.2008 in setting aside the order of acquittal passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Srirampur in Sessions Case No. 70 of 2003 in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction Under Section 378(1) and (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, on the charge of murder Under Section 302 read with Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC” for short) holding the accused/Appellant herein guilty for the offence of murder and sentenced him to suffer life imprisonment, with a fine of ` 1,000/-, in default, rigorous imprisonment for six months, is under challenge before this Court in this appeal. Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Appellant invited our attention to the finding recorded by the learned Sessions Judge wherein he has, after proper appreciation of the evidence placed on record, particularly the defence evidence of Dr. M.M. Sahastrabuddhe, DW-1 (Psycatrix), who was examined on behalf of the accused as defence witness, in his evidence, deposed that the accused was suffering from Schizophrenia, which, according to him, is a serious type of mental disorder caused due to chemical changes in the limping system of the brain. He further deposed that during the treatment from 1992 to 1997 the said illness of the Appellant got impaired. The Doctor opined that there can be sudden variations in the patient’s behavior, the capacity of judgment in schizophrenic attack of such patient gets impaired. The Doctor also opined that such a patient can be cured and further stated, in his evidence, that after a gap of some period it can be relapsed. He further stated that in such attack, patient may commit any gruesome offence. The learned Counsel for the Appellant, in support of the said evidence, also placed reliance upon the material retrieved from the internet with regard to the ailment of schizophrenia, wherein it is opined by the expert doctor as follows:

Normal Versus Abnormal-

At times, normal individuals may feel, think, or act in ways that resemble schizophrenia. Normal people may sometimes be unable to “think straight.” They may become extremely anxious, for example, when speaking in front of groups and may feel confused, be unable to pull their thoughts together, and forget what they had intended to say. This is not schizophrenia. At the same time, people with schizophrenia do not always act abnormally. Indeed, some people with the illness can appear completely normal and be perfectly responsible, even while they experience hallucinations or delusions. An individual’s behavior may change over time, becoming bizarre if medication is stopped and returning closer to normal when receiving appropriate treatment.

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2. Hence, how long should people with Schizophrenia take anti-psychotic drugs, the following opinion is rendered by the expert Doctor.

How Long Should People With Schizophrenia Take Antipsychotic Drugs? Antipsychotic medications reduce the risk of future psychotic episodes in patients who have recovered from an acute episode. Even with continued drug treatment, some people who have recovered will suffer relapses. Far higher relapse rates are seen when medication is discontinued. In most cases, it would not be accurate to say that continued drug treatment “prevents” relapses; rather, it reduces their intensity and frequency. The treatment of severe psychotic symptoms generally requires higher dosages than those used for maintenance treatment. If symptoms reappear on a lower dosage, a temporary increase in dosage may prevent a full-blown relapse.

3. In view of the aforesaid information of physiatrist expert, available on the internet, learned Counsel for the Appellant submits that after the treatment there are chances of relapse, that has happened as on the date of the occurrence of the case, therefore, the defence evidence has been made before the trial court. On a proper appreciation of the evidence placed on record and recording the finding of fact on the charge, the trial court held that the guilt is not proved qua the accused/Appellant herein and he has been acquitted as, according to the trial court, he is entitled to be benefit Under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.

4. The correctness of the said finding and reasons recorded by the trial court Judge was challenged before the First Appellate Court by the State/Respondent herein inter alia contending that in the absence of any substantive piece of defence evidence that schizophrenic ailment of the accused was relapsed, after nine years, more particularly, as on the date of the occurrence, extending the benefit of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code in favour of the accused, in absence of such evidence, the finding recorded by the trial court Judge is erroneous, therefore, the prosecution has sought for setting aside the said judgment and order and prayed for conviction and sentence of the accused/Appellant herein for the charge framed against him. The Division Bench of the High Court has examined the correctness of the finding and reasons recorded on the charge of guilt by the trial court and on re-appreciation of the evidence on record held the Appellant guilty for the aforesaid offence.

5. Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Appellant has questioned the correctness of the finding recorded by the Division Bench of the High Court reversing the finding recorded by the trial court to show that the appellate court has ignored the defence evidence and the medical opinion on the ailment of schizophrenia, the evidence of defence, Dr. M.M. Sahastrabuddhe, DW-1, who has stated that during the period 1992 to 1997, the Appellant was treated as a patient for schizophrenia ailment and though he has been treated for the said ailment, it has relapsed. The said evidence has been totally disbelieved by the Division Bench of the High Court and it has recorded an erroneous finding, therefore, prayed for setting aside the impugned judgment and order.

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6. On the other hand, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondent-State of Maharashtra sought to justify the correctness of the findings of the Division Bench of the High Court and submits that the first appellate court in its domain has exercised its appellate power and re-appreciated the evidence and eventually arrived at the conclusion on the basis of the material evidence placed on record, including the defence witness, as also taking into consideration the subsequent conduct of the accused at the time of producing him, after the arrest, before the learned Magistrate, which was the first opportunity for him to state that he has been suffering from schizophrenia, and at the time of hearing of the appeal, he has been sent to the Civil Surgeon. After considering the opinion of the Civil Surgeon and the evidence placed on record, the appellate court has recorded a finding that it is evident, that it was realised on 20.08.2004 that the accused/Appellant herein was talking irrelevantly that was followed by an order of reference of the Appellant to the Civil Surgeon. Whereafter, the accused was certified to be fit to face the trial in March, 2005. Thus, relapse to schizophrenic attack was in August, 2004, which is one year after the incident on 30.07.2003 and, thereafter, at the time of arrest, he has not complained before the learned Magistrate, therefore, the Division Bench of the High Court presumed that there were no signs of unsoundness of mind of the accused/Appellant, otherwise there could have been a reference of the accused/Appellant by the learned Magistrate to the Competent Medical expert Doctor at the relevant time. Further, adverting to the relevant fact, namely, on 31.07.2003 at 3.00 p.m., when he was produced before the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Srirampur, the learned Magistrate recorded that the accused/Appellant has no complaint of ill-treatment at the hands of Police. On the day next, after the incident, there were no signs of unsoundness of mind and with reference to the remand report, because it is not exhibited document, presumption, as to the action as recorded in the remand report referred to by the learned Magistrate, will have to be drawn because the learned Magistrate being an official, he has been presumed to have done official act properly while remanding to the judicial custody at the time when the Appellant was produced before him. Therefore, the Division Bench of the High Court has arrived at the right conclusion that there is no evidence adduced by the accused/Appellant on record to show that he was suffering from mental illness on the date of the occurrence to extend the benefit of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.

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7. The Division Bench of the High Court with reference to the conduct of the accused seen before the incident, has arrived at the conclusion that he was working to a plan on the day he was produced before the learned Magistrate on 31.07.2003, there were no signs of unsoundness of mind. The defence has not been successful in proving that “at the crucial point of time” or “at the time of doing the act” by unsoundness of mind, the accused/Appellant was incapable of knowing the nature of his act. Regarding evidence of unsoundness of mind brought on record is not regarding unsoundness of mind soon before or after the incident. On the contrary, soon before the incident, the accused/Appellant appears to have conscientiously acted upon the plan and, therefore, the Division Bench of the High Court was rightly not agreed with the finding of fact recorded by the trial court on the charge holding him not guilty. It has rightly set aside the finding of the trial court holding that the case of the accused does not fall within the purview of general exceptions available Under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code. Further, we have carefully examined the reasons recorded by the trial court Judge that immediately after the incident the Appellant has performed Pooja and also prepared tea that would factor in to hold that the conclusion arrived at by the Division Bench of the High Court is based on proper appreciation of the evidence placed on record. More so, in absence of defence for unsoundness of mind the accused/Appellant on the date of the incident, in our considered opinion, the Division Bench of the High Court did not err in setting aside the acquittal judgment passed by the trial court.

8. For the reasons stated supra, the judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court is perfectly legal and valid and does not call for our interference. In view of the foregoing findings, reasons recorded on the charge and observations made in this Order, this appeal being devoid of merit is liable to be dismissed and is dismissed accordingly.

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