Mere production of photocopy of an OPD card and statement of mother not enough to prove mental unsoundness

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant, JJ has held that in order to successfully claim defence of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the accused must show by preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong.

“Mere production of photocopy of an OPD card and statement of mother on affidavit have little, if any, evidentiary value.”

Further, it must be established that the accused was afflicted by such disability particularly at the time of the crime and that but for such impairment, the crime would not have been committed.

The Court was hearing a matter where three accused were held to be guilty of robbery with attempt to cause grievous hurt by the Trial Court.  One of the accused contended that he was merely 15 years old at the time of occurrence and was undergoing treatment for a mental disorder at a government hospital. He supported his claim through a copy of an OPD card and the testimony of the appellant’s mother who stated that he sometimes had to be kept chained at home to prevent harm to himself and others. The High Court took notice of the appellant’s age being 21 years at the time of recording of his Section 313 Cr.P.C. statement in March 2004 and concluded that the appellant would therefore have been an able-minded major at the time of incident in May, 2001.

At the outset, the Supreme Court noticed that pleas of unsoundness of mind under Section 84 of IPC or mitigating circumstances like juvenility of age, ordinarily ought to be raised during trial itself. Belated claims not only prevent proper production and appreciation of evidence, but they also undermine the genuineness of the defence’s case.

The Court took note of the fact that no evidence in the form of a birth certificate, school record or medical test was brought forth; nor any expert examination has been sought by the appellant. Instead, the statement recorded under Section 313 CrPC shows that the appellant was above 18 years around the time of the incident, which is a far departure from the claimed age of 15 years.

Stating that the plea of mental disorder remains unsubstantiated, the Court noticed that no deposition was made by any witness, nor did the appellant himself claim any such impairment during his Section 313 CrPC statement. On the contrary, his conduct of running away from the spot of the crime evidence an elevated level of mental intellect. The answers recorded in response to the questions put forth by the Additional Sessions Judge at the Sec 313 CrPC stage are also not mechanical or laconic. For example, the appellant explains his refusal to participate in the TIP proceedings by alleging that his face had already been shown by the police to the complainant.

When the Court tried to get the appellant mentally examined, it was brought to its notice that the appellant who had been granted bail by this Court earlier, is untraceable. The appellant is not residing at his claimed address since the past eight years, and even the appellant’s own counsel fairly admitted to not having received any instructions from his client since the past ten years, The Court, hence, concluded that the plea of mental illness is nothing but a made-up story, and is far from genuine.

[Md. Anwar v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 653, decided on 19.08.2020]

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