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Prosecution Of A Unsound Mind Person

Unsound Mind

Chapter XXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the provisions in relation to the accused persons of Unsound Mind. Where Section 328 talks about the procedure in case of accused being lunatic, 329 talks about procedure being dealt with when the person si unsound mind.

Section 329 states as follows: (1) “If at the trial of any person before a Magistrate or Court of Session, it appears to the Magistrate or Court that such person is of unsound mind and consequently incapable of making his defence, the Magistrate or Court shall, in the first instance, try the fact of such unsoundness and incapacity, and if the Magistrate or Court, after considering such medical and other evidence as may be produced before him or it, is satisfied of the fact, he or it shall record a finding to that effect and shall postpone further proceedings in the case.[1] (2) The trial of the fact of the unsoundness of mind and incapacity of the accused shall be deemed to be part of his trial before the Magistrate or Court.[2]

Scope Of The Section:
This section deals with the application in the Magistrate Court or the Court of Session at District level. The Court is under a liability to at first place take into consideration whether the person against whom the enquiry has been held is of unsound mind or not. As per the principles of natural justice[3] the accused who is believed to be of unsound mind has every right to be heard before the Court. In the case of Dr. Jaishankar v state of Himachal Pradesh,[4] the phrase “reason to believe” was interpreted and it was held that it means that belief which a reasonable person would entertain on the facts placed before him. It was also held further that the Magistrate was “duty bound” to try into the unsoundness of mind before having the case commenced. Therefore, with regards to Section 464 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it was held that this enquiry must be a threshold one.

In another case of State of Mysore v Seetharam[5], it was held that if on an enquiry held for the unsoundness leads the Court to the belief that the person is of sound mind and in his reasonableness, was capable of making his defence at the time of his trial, he will be prosecuted under subsequent sections for the offences committed by him.

Therefore, if he is found to have a sound mind, an enquiry must be held under 332 and he should be dealt under 333 and 334. If not, the proceedings must be stayed and action must be taken under Section 330 until he reverts to sanity.
The object of the enquiry under this section of Cr.P.C. is to check whether the person is capable of making his defence or not.

Inquiry Into Unsoundness Of The Mind:
Mere certificate in regards to the insanity of the person is not enough. This means to say that the medical certificate that is prescribed for the accused by the Medical officer is not enough and the Magistrate must examine him. In the plea of insanity raised by the accused, it is the duty of the prosecution to subject the accused in the trial to medical examination immediately. This carries importance because if it is found out during the course of the investigation that the accused has been suffering from a mental disease, the prosecution is further duty bound to place before the Court all the evidence that could be available to show that the accused had committed the offence with a proper state of mind. [6]

If it appears to the Judge that the accused is incapable of making his defence, his duty is to follow the procedure in Section 329. There lies a distinction between incapacity at the time of commission of offence and at the time of trial. [7] Where it appears to the Court that the accused is perfectly normal and that no mental disorder is apparent, there is no obligation to make any enquiry. But, if doubt arises in relation to the soundness of mind at any stage when the trial is commenced, the obvious course would be to postpone the hearing and inquire in to the matter first.

Analysis And Inference:
The Court is very supportive with the accused in the cases when he is of unsound mind. When the medical report states that he is of unsound mind, it is directed to be taken up for hearing as the Court is also justified with the fact that because he is unable to make himself heard or through a lawyer, he is Court would provide him with the reasonable opportunity of being heard. The Court in these circumstances is bound to afford him the same protection to which he would have been entitled having been of unsound mind at the time of trial. [8]

[1] Section 329 (1) Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
[2] Section 329 (2) Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
[3] Article 14, Article 311 The Constitution of India, 1950.
[4] Dr. Jaishankar v State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 1972 SC 2267.
[5] State of Mysore v Seetharam, AIR 1964 Mys 50.[6] State of Maharashtra v Gobind Mahatarba Shinde, 2010 Cr LJ 3586 (3590) (Bom).
[7] Durga Charan, 65 CWN 290.
[8] Vivian Rodrick v State of W.B. 1969 3 SCC 176.

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