Notes-Indian Penal Code ( Section 84)

Prepared by Asisst. Professor Rekha Khandelwal ( Expert of Criminal Law)

To read about Notes on Indian Penal Code Plz. click the link

IPC Chapter – IV General Exceptions

Absence of Criminal intent ( Sec. 84)

Chapter IV of Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides following acts which are exempted under the code from criminal liability

Section 84. Act of a person of unsound mind

Whenever any act is done by a person who is incapable of knowing the nature of the act that he is doing either wrong or contrary to law due to unsoundness of mind then the act shall not be an offence.

The act is exempted under the code from criminal liability where the accused is not charged of the crime committed. As the act shows  absence of mens rea i.e. guilty mind. While Actus reus and mens rea are two essential elements to impose criminal liability on accused.

According to Principle of criminal liability in IPC which is basis on latin maxim “Actus non faciet reum nisi mens sit rea”

Essential elements of section 84-

  • Accused was of unsound mind when committed the offence; and
  • He was not capable of knowing the nature of the act; or
  • The act was contrary to law; or
  • The act was wrong

Kinds of Insanity-

Legal insanity – A person is legally insane when he is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that what he was doing was wrong or contrary to law.All legal insanity are medical insanity.

Medical insanity –A person who is suffering from mental disease or his brain is not quite all right is a medical insane. It includes all type of insanity.All medical insanity are not legal insanity.

 McNaughten Rule –

In the landmark case R V Daniel McNaughten(1)1843 RR 59, Sudhakaran v. State of Kerala, (2010) 10 SCC 582

 The house of Lords formulated the famous Mc Naughton rules on the basis of the 5 question. Which had been referred to them with regard to the defence of insanity. The reference came to be made in a case where McNaughton was charged with the murder by shooting of Edward Drummond. Who was the Private Secretary of the prime minister of England Sir Robert Peel. The accused McNaughtn produced  medical evidence to prove that he was not sound of mind at the time of committing the act,. He alleged that he was suffering from an insane delusion that the Prime Minister was the only reason for all his problems and alleged that as a result of the insane delusion, He  mistook Drummond  for the Prime Minister and committed his murder by shooting him. The plea of insanity was accepted. And McNaughten was found not guilty on the ground of insanity. 

 The aforesaid verdict became the subject of debate in the house of Lords. Therefore it was determined to take the opinion of all the judges on the law governing such cases. As a result a set of five questions were formulated to make law more lucid on the topic and the answers to It has become the core principles of the law of insanity as an absolving factor.

The answers given by the judges in McNaughten case may be summarized in the following five rules :

  • That 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 the satisfaction of the court.
  • 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 the mind to the extent where could not know the nature of his acts  or the act was contrary to law; or the act was wrong.
  • If the accused was capable to know the nature of his act or the act was contrary to law; or the act was wrong then he would be punishable.
  • If criminal act is done by a person under some insane delusion as to the surrounding facts, which conceals him from the true nature of the act he is doing then he will be under the same degree of responsibility as he would have been on the facts as imagined in the them to be.
  • A medical witness who has not seen the accused before trial should not be asked on the evidence whether he thinks that the accused was insane.

Kinds of Unsound Mind

Bapu v. State of Rajasthan, (2007) 8 SCC 66

According to the case there are four kinds of persons who may be non compos mentis (not of sound mind)

1. An idiot- An idiot is one who is of non-sane memory from his birth, by a perpetual infirmity, without lucid intervals and those are said to be Idiots who cannot count 20, or tell the days of the week, or who do not know their fathers or mothers, or the like. So idiocy as natural insanity.

2. One made non compos by illness- A person made non compose by illness is excused in criminal cases from such acts as are committed while under the influence of his disorder.

3. A lunatic or a madman- A lunatic is one who is affected by mental disorder only at certain periods and vicissitudes, having intervals of reason. madness is permanent. So lunacy and madness are spoken of as acquired insanity. 

4. And one who is drunk.

Plz. click the link to Know more Case Law relating to Sec 84

To read about Notes on Constitution of India Plz. click the link

To read about Notes on Law of Torts Plz click the link

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