The Bombay High Court has held that even if there is a reasonable doubt in the mind of the court regarding the mental condition of an accused at the time of the crime, then the said accused is entitled to benefit under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.
A division bench of Justices BR Gavai and SV Kotwal acquitted 41-year-old Mohammad Rafiq Shahabuddin Shaikh who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions judge in Thane, as the accused has been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia since before the crime took place.
The accused pleaded not guilty before the trial court, and after appreciating all the evidence, the trial court convicted the accused who then filed an appeal against the order of conviction.
According to the prosecution, one woman named Husna informed the first informant, Aayub Shaikh, about the accused inflicting wounds on the watchman of their society with a knife. Aayub then rushed to the society’s gate only to find the accused inflicting blows with a knife on watchman Devendra Thapa.
Apparently, the accused told the first informant that Thapa had failed to obey his orders of watering his plants, hence, he assaulted Thapa with a knife. Thereafter, the police were informed and an FIR was registered under S.307 of IPC which was later changed to S.302 after Thapa succumbed to his injuries.
Accused’s counsel Shekhar Ingawale did not dispute that his client had committed the crime, however, submitted before the division bench that the accused was entitled to benefit under Section 84 of the IPC which was erroneously negated by the trial judge.
Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code reads-
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.
The court noted that the accused had earlier been charged with the murder of one Manjit Kavetia in 2001 and the trial court had found the accused guilty of murder but still gave him the benefit of Section 84.
It examined the judgment of the Supreme Court in Shrikant Anandrao Bhosale vs. State of Maharashtra wherein it was said that the circumstance of unsoundness of mind before and after the incident is a relevant fact to draw the inference that the appellant was under ailment at the relevant time when he committed the crime.
Ingawale also examined the accused’s doctor who stated that the accused underwent treatment for paranoid schizophrenia immediately after committing the crime.
Thus, the court observed that the accused had been able to prove that at the time when the said crime of murder was committed, the accused had been undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia. It also rejected the reasoning of the trial judge who refused to grant the benefit of Section 84 to the accused.
The court said:
“We find that the reasoning given by the learned Trial Judge to reject the claim raised by the Appellant under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, is totally erroneous. We may gainfully refer to the observations of the Hon'ble Apex Court in recent judgment in the case of Devidas Loka Rathod vs. State of Maharashtra, when Their Lordships have observed thus:
If from the material placed on record, a reasonable doubt is created in the mind of the Court with regard to the mental condition of the accused at the time of occurrence, he shall be entitled to the benefit of the reasonable doubt and consequent acquittal, as observed in Vijayee Singh vs. State of U.P.
It could thus be seen that, even if a reasonable doubt is created in the mind of the Court with regard to mental condition of the accused at the time of occurrence, a benefit has to be given to the accused.”
Thus, the accused was acquitted of all charges against him.