The Rajasthan High Court has recently allowed an appeal against the sentence of life imprisonment for an offence under Section 302 IPC while observing that the defence has to prove the plea of insanity only to the extent of establishing it by preponderance of probabilities and it need not be proved beyond all manner of doubt.
The appellant, Mohan Lal, has been convicted and sentenced vide judgment dated 11.11.2019 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Bhinmal, District Jalore. Being aggrieved of his conviction and sentences, the appellant has preferred the instant appeal under Section 374(2) Cr.P.C.
The brief facts of the case is that the appellant Mohanlal was married to Jhamka. About 5 years before the incident, Jhamka was inflicted injuries at her matrimonial home on 05.07.2013 and was taken to the hospital where she was declared dead. The father of the deceased submitted a written report to the SHO, Police Station Jhab on the very same day i.e. 05.07.2013 at the CHC, Sanchore alleging inter alia that his daughter Jhamka was married to the appellant about 5 years ago. The relatives viz. husband Mohanlal, sister-in-law Manju Devi and the brother-in-law Bhakhra Ram used to harass and humiliate his daughter on account of demand of dowry. Whenever she came to the maternal home, she complained of these incidents to him.
The complainant alleged that he had given sufficient dowry but still, the deceased was being harassed in the matrimonial home. He alleged that his daughter had been murdered on account of demand of dowry. On the basis of this written report, an FIR was registered at the Police Station Jhab and investigation was commenced. The appellant and the co-accused persons were arrested. The usual recoveries were affected by the I.O. acting in furtherance of the information provided by the accused under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. After concluding investigation, a charge-sheet came to be filed against the appellant Mohanlal for the offences punishable under Sections 498A & 302 IPC and in the alternative Section 304B IPC and against the accused Bhakhra Ram and Manju Devi for the offence punishable under Section 498A IPC.
As the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 304B IPC were exclusively sessions triable, the case was committed to the Court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Bhinmal for trial where charges were framed against the accused in the above terms. They pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. The prosecution examined as many as 22 witnesses and exhibited 27 documents to prove its case.
In the statements recorded under Section 313 Cr.P.C., the accused denied the prosecution allegations. The accused Mohanlal took a specific plea of insanity in his explanation and stated that he was suffering from a bout of schizophrenia on the date of the incident. 5 witnesses were examined and 17 documents were exhibited in defence. After hearing the arguments advanced by the Public Prosecutor and the defence counsel and, upon appreciating the evidence available on record, the trial court drew a conclusion that the allegation of harassment meted out to the deceased on account of demand of dowry was not substantiated.
Accordingly, all three accused, Mohanlal, Manju Devi and Bhakhra Ram, were acquitted of the offence punishable under Section 498A IPC. The accused i.e. Mohanlal was acquitted from the offence punishable under Section 304B IPC. However he was convicted for the offence under Section 302 IPC and was awarded life imprisonment by the impugned judgment dated 11.11.2019 which is assailed in the appeal.
Dinesh Vishnoi, counsel representing the appellant, has advanced a solitary argument for assailing the impugned Judgment. He urged that the accused was suffering from insanity well before and even on the day of the incident and thus, he is entitled to the benefit of plea of insanity by virtue of Section 84 of the IPC.
Per contra, the Public Prosecutor vehemently and fervently opposed the submissions advanced by the appellant’s counsel. He contended that the murder was committed inside the matrimonial home and as the presence of the accused in the house has been established by unimpeachable evidence, by virtue of Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the burden would shift on to the accused to explain as to in what manner his wife received the fatal injuries in his presence.
The accused, upon being questioned under Section 313 Cr.P.C., did not deny his presence in the house and took a lame plea of insanity, which was not proved by any plausible evidence. On these arguments, the Public Prosecutor urged that the prosecution has proved its case against the accused appellant beyond all manner of doubt by reliable evidence and thus, the impugned Judgment does not warrant any interference.
The Division Bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Sameer Jain while considering the appeal held that as per this evidence and by resorting to the reverse burden of proof under Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court have no hesitation in holding that the appellant inflicted the fatal sharp weapon injuries to his wife.
“Hence, we have no hesitation in concluding that the trial court was perfectly justified in holding that the appellant herein inflicted the blows by a sharp weapon to Smt. Jhamka thereby causing her death. The injuries were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death and hence, the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC is well established from the material placed on record by the prosecution,” the Court said.
The conclusion of the trial court was that as the prescription slips proved on behalf of the accused did not correspond to the date of incident, it could not be concluded beyond all manner of doubt that the accused was suffering from such mental ailment which could entitle him to the benefit of Section 84 of the IPC which reads as below:
“84. Act of a person of unsound mind.—Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.”
Having considered the entirety of material available on the record, the evidence of the medical experts and the prescription slips which have been proved by these experts, the Court is of the firm opinion that there is unimpeachable documentary as well as oral evidence which establishes beyond all manner of doubt that the accused was being provided treatment for the mental ailment since 2010 onwards. A Medical Board was constituted to examine the accused under the order of the court in 2016, and even at that time, he was found suffering from Psychosis NOS.
“Psychosis, Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is a categorisation of symptoms within general diagnosis of Psychosis. Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology grades Psychosis as an acutely severe mental disorder, where the patient loses contact with reality along with absolute lack of empathy and absence of insight”.
Keeping in view the pronouncement of Supreme Court judgment Devidas Loka Rathod v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2018 SC 3093 wherein, various earlier precedents were considered, the High Court observed that the burden on the defence to prove the plea of insanity is only to the extent of establishing the same by preponderance of probabilities and such a defence need not be proved beyond all manner of doubt. Thus, the conclusion drawn by the trial court that the defence failed to prove that the accused was affected with such mental ailment, which prevented him from understanding the consequences of his acts, is totally unjustified.
“In wake of the discussion made herein above, we are persuaded to accept the plea of insanity advanced on behalf of the appellant to overturn his conviction as recorded by the trial court by the impugned Judgment. The findings recorded (supra) by the trial court on the aspect of plea of insanity advanced by the defence, are not sustainable in light of convincing and unimpeachable oral and medical evidence available on record and keeping in view the authoritative pronouncement by Hon’ble the Supreme Court in the case of Devidas Loka Rathod (supra). The impugned Judgment cannot be sustained,” the order reads.