SC acquits man accused of killing grandfather, says he was suffering from insanity

 A man, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his 81-year-old grandfather, has been acquitted by the Supreme Court which said his “weird and abnormal action” was clearly indicative of the fact that he was suffering from insanity at the time of the incident.

The apex court, while setting aside the Sikkim High Court’s verdict convicting and sentencing the man to life term, affirmed the trial court order that acquitted him while concluding that he was incapable of knowing the nature of his act by reason of “unsoundness of mind”.

The top court noted the trial court had considered the matter within the ambit of section 84 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with acts of a person of unsound mind.

The trial court verdict acquitting the accused was challenged by the state before the high court which had last year reversed the order and convicted him of murder.

A bench of Justices J B Pardiwala and Prashant Kumar Mishra was dealing with the man’s appeal against the high court verdict.

On the issue of insanity, which the appellant had raised before the trial court, the bench said apart from medical evidence, his “abnormal/insane behavior” at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter was “worth notice”.

“It is also to be seen that after the appellant-accused attacked the deceased by a sharp-edged weapon which was later snatched by (prosecution witness) PW-1 (daughter of the deceased), he was trying to take out the windpipe from the neck of the deceased which was already cut,” the bench noted in its verdict delivered on Wednesday.

“This action of the appellant-accused was weird and abnormal. This is clearly indicative of the fact that he was suffering from insanity at the time of incident,” it said.

The bench, while referring to the evidence of two prosecution witnesses and the medical evidence adduced, said it was fully proved that the appellant had attacked the deceased with sharp-edged weapon causing his death.

It also referred to section 84 of the IPC which says, “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.”

The bench said it is settled that standard of proof to prove lunacy or insanity is only “reasonable doubt”.

Referring to a judgement delivered by the apex court, the bench said it was held that an accused who seeks exoneration from liability of an act under section 84 of the IPC has to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity.

“Since the term insanity or unsoundness of mind has not been defined in the Penal Code, it carries different meaning in different contexts and describes varying degrees of mental disorder. A distinction is to be made between legal insanity and medical insanity. The court is concerned with legal insanity and not with medical insanity,” the bench noted.

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The top court said in this case, the appellant was acquitted by the trial court and later, the high court had reversed the judgment upon appeal preferred by the state.

“It is settled that the judgment of acquittal can be reversed by the appellate court only when there is perversity and not by taking a different view on re-appreciation of evidence. If the conclusion of the trial court is plausible one, merely because another view is possible on re-appreciation of evidence, the appellate court should not disturb the findings of acquittal and substitute its own findings to convict the accused,” it said.

The bench said in the light of the evidence discussed by the trial court, including the medical evidence about the mental illness of the appellant and his abnormal behaviour at the time of occurrence, “it does not appear that the view taken by the trial court was perverse or that it was without any evidence”.

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