Case BriefsSupreme Court

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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has held that

“the age of a case, by itself, cannot be decisive of the matter when a prayer is made for examination of a material witness.”

Factual Background

  • A woman died in Nigeria under unnatural circumstances and her mother moved an application under Section 311 CrPC seeking summoning of the Doctor who had conducted first postmortem of the dead-body of her daughter in Nigeria.
  • The dead-body of the daughter of appellant was brought to India and Medical Board was constituted for conducting the post-mortem but then, the Board found that no definite opinion could be given regarding the time and cause of death.
  • The investigating agency, for the reasons best known to it, did not cite the said doctor, who conducted the first post-mortem in Nigeria as a witness
  • The Trial Court rejected the application so moved by the appellant, essentially for reasons that the trial was pending for almost 8 years; and that it was not necessary to record the Doctor’s statement.

Ruling

Noticing that the discretionary powers like those under Section 311 CrPC are essentially intended to ensure that every necessary and appropriate measure is taken by the Court to keep the record straight and to clear any ambiguity in so far as the evidence is concerned as also to ensure that no prejudice is caused to anyone, the Bench said,

“the testimony of the said doctor who conducted the first post-mortem in Nigeria is germane to the questions involved in this matter; and for a just decision of the case with adequate opportunity to both the parties to put forward their case, the application under Section 311 CrPC ought to have been allowed.”

The Court said that the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case have either been ignored or have been cursorily dealt by the Trial Court with the observations that the effect of non-availability of the original post-mortem report would be considered at the time of the final disposal of the matter.

“In fact, the principal reason weighing with the Trial Court in declining the prayer for examination of the said witness had been that the case was pending since the year 2010. The High Court, on the other hand, chose not to exercise its powers under 8 Section 482 CrPC, with the only observation that the discretion so exercised by the Trial Court was not to be interfered with.”

The Court held that though it is expected that the trial of a sessions case should proceed with reasonable expedition and pendency of such a matter for about 8-9 years is not desirable but then, the length/duration of a case cannot displace the basic requirement of ensuring the just decision after taking all the necessary and material evidence on record.

[Manju Devi v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 552, decided on 16.04.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where 5 appellants, convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC, had approached the Court with the plea of setting aside the order of conviction, the Court, rejected the plea and held that once it is found that the witnesses, who are eye witnesses, were present and they have truthfully narrated the incidence as it happened and their depositions are worth of credence, conviction can be based on their testimonies even if they were related to the deceased.

In the present case, the informant’s uncle was killed while saving him from the appellants who had intended to kill him over a property dispute. The appellants had argued that no independent witnesses were examined in the present case and all the witnesses who were examined were related to the deceased. The Court rejected the said contention and said that in the cross-examination or otherwise it has not even been brought out by the defence that there were other persons at the scene of occurrence who were independent persons. It was further noticed that there were six eye witnesses and three of them were injured eye witnesses, which is a weighty factor to show the actual presence of these witnesses at the scene of occurrence.

The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N. V. Ramana, JJ. said that the credibility and trustworthiness of the eye witnesses could not be shaken by the accused persons. The only requirement, while scrutinising the interested witnesses, is to examine their depositions with greater caution and deeper scrutiny is needed and the same has been done by the Trial Court and the Patna High Court in the present case. [Kamta Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1112, decided on 06.10.2016]