New Delhi: The Supreme Court, while dismissing a criminal appeal of an accused, has observed 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 order was passed by a bench comprising Justices N.V. Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant in an appeal by the accused against an order of the Delhi High Court convicting and sentencing him under Section 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959.
The accused, along with two other co-accused, had pointed a revolver and a knife at the complainant and extorted Rs 30,000 and contemplated murdering him by stabbing so that he would not report the matter to the police. However, hearing the commotion of passersby, the three ran from the spot. They were later arrested by the police.
The trial court held all three guilty of robbery with attempt to cause grievous hurt and sentenced them to seven years rigorous imprisonment under Section 397/34 of IPC, five years rigorous imprisonment under Section 392/34 of IPC, two years rigorous imprisonment under Section 25 of the Arms Act and fine of Rs 5,000 (or imprisonment of six months in lieu thereof).
The appellant approached the High Court which dismissed the charge under Section 397 of IPC, and instead convicted him under Section 394 with a reduced sentence of only two years rigorous imprisonment.
The counsel for the appellant raised new arguments of juvenility and insanity before the High Court. It was claimed that Mohd Anwar was merely 15 years at the time of the incident and was undergoing treatment for a mental disorder at a government hospital. This was supported by 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.
The Supreme Court, while upholding the High Court’s order, observed that “The plea of mental disorder too remains unsubstantiated. 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 on 17.05.2001 as well as the attempt to escape from the bus on 20.05.2001 evidence an elevated level of mental intellect.”
The Court further observed: “Mere production of photocopy of an OPD card and statement of mother on affidavit have little, if any, evidentiary value. 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.”
“Given such inability of the appellant to establish juvenility or insanity, raise any doubt regarding guilt; and considering the detailed reasons accorded by the High Court, the reliable testimony of twelve witnesses as well as the leniency shown in sentencing, we see no reasons to interfere with the impugned order(s). The appeal is accordingly dismissed,” held by the Court.
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The bench cancelled the bail bonds of the accused and directed the State to take him into custody for the remainder of his term.
Read the Judgment here;9400_2010_32_1501_23468_Judgement_19-Aug-2020
– India Legal Bureau