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Madhya Pradesh High Court upholds acquittal of POCSO accused schizophrenia patient

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has recently upheld the acquittal order passed in favour of a POCSO accused, while observing that the accused was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the incident.

A single-judge bench of Justice Subodh Abhyankar passed this order while hearing a petition filed by the State of Madhya Pradesh. The application for leave to appeal under Section 378(3) of CrPC has been filed against the order dated February 3, 2021 passed by Special Judge, Indore, District Indore, whereby, the respondent has been acquitted of the charges under Sections 354 of IPC and Sections 7/8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act 2021.

It is alleged that on July 11, 2021 at about 9.30 pm, the respondent caressed on the back of the victim, a girl aged around 10 years and thus, tried to outrage her modesty.

The trial court judge, after recording the evidence and appreciating the same, acquitted the respondent on the ground that he did not try to run away from the spot soon after the incident and also did not object to the thrashing given to him by the bystanders.

The Court noted that,

“The defence of the respondent was that he was suffering from mental disorder, the documents regarding which were also placed on record including the OPD ticket dated November 2, 2015 of Gwalior Mental Hospital as also other documents demonstrating that the respondent was undergoing mental treatment for a long period of time.”

Another document was also placed on record as also the discharge ticket of the respondent from the Gwalior Mental Hospital demonstrating that he was admitted in the hospital from June 3, 2015 to June 12, 2015 i.e. much prior to the incident in the year 2018. The trial court judge has come to the conclusion that on the date of the incident, the respondent was normal and was not suffering from any mental disorder.

Although, the proceeding of the trial court also reveals that on February 2, 2021, the Judge has also made an observation regarding the respondent’s mental health that as per the certificate issued by the medical Board on January 21, 2021, the respondent’s mental status is better from earlier.

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Hence, under these circumstances, the Court has found that the respondent was in a better mental condition. From the deposition of all the prosecution witnesses it is apparent that the respondent was acting in a strange manner as he had shown no emotions at the time when the incident took place, even when he was being thrashed by the onlookers but, in the considered opinion of the court, such behaviour in itself cannot be a reason to acquit the respondent.

The Court observed that in the certificate issued by the medical Board of M.Y.H.Hospital dated July 27, 2019, signed by three doctors, it is clearly mentioned that in MSE (Mental Status Exam), observation and ward behaviour the Board was of the opinion that the respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia and that he would require long term treatment and followup, but this opinion of the Board has been deferred by the Judge of the trial court its order dated September 30, 2019 observing that from this report it does not appear if the respondent is suffering from mental disability and thus a clarification has again been sought which has been given vider report dated January 21, 2021.

In the said report dated July 29, 2021, the Board opined,

“The subject Raghunath is suffering from mental disorder Schizophrenia” and with the treatment his symptoms have improved from previous state and currently he is in a relatively stable condition”.

The Court found that in the Board’s report dated July 27, 2019, the respondent was actually suffering from Schizophrenia which admittedly causes delusions and hallucinations whereas in the report dated January 29, 2021 as reproduced above, it is apparent that the respondent had already taken the treatment and was in a much better condition than that of July 27, 2019.

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The Court held that, it appears that the respondent was in a state of delusion at the time of incident and for the aforesaid reasons only, did not act normally when the incident took place. In view of the aforesaid discussion, the Court finds that the judge of the trial Court has erred in holding that the respondent’s mental state was normal; it is also found that the conclusion, that the respondent did not try to run away from the spot shows his lack of mens rea is also not correct as it is found by the court that the respondent was suffering from mental disorder Schizophrenia since a long time.

In view of the same, although in the judgement dated February 3, 2021, the finding of acquittal recorded by the judge of the trial court is correct but for all the wrong reasons assigned to record such finding.

“Thus, the judgement is hereby modified to the extent that the respondent was mentally challenged at the time of the incident and his behaviour of showing no emotions at all, at the time and place of the incident was owing to his mental condition only and not because of his lack of mens rea. As a result, the application for leave to appeal by the applicant/State being devoid of merits, is hereby dismissed,”

-the Court ordered.

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