The Indian Law on involuntary Intoxication or drunkenness is contained in section 85 of the Code. This section affords the same protection to an accused as section 84 to a person of unsound mind. All these sections of Intoxication and insanity fall under chapter IV (General Exceptions) of the Indian Penal Code in section 84, 85, and 86 which covers defenses which are based on the presumption that a person is not liable for the crime committed.
Stephen in his Digest of Criminal Law states that- No act is a crime, if a person who does it, is at the same time when it is done prevented either by defective mental power or by any disease affecting his mind (a)from knowing the nature and the quality of the act or, (b)from knowing that the act is wrong
These laws extent in the maxim of Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, meaning that an act alone cannot hold a person guilty without a guilty intention. Though the word insanity has not been used anywhere, it has been used in terms of unsoundness of mind. A person of unsound mind is Noncompos mentis, which may include a fool or a person with a mental disorder, one who is made so by illness, a lunatic or a mad man, or by intoxication.
Insanity: Insane person
The insanity defense is primarily used in criminal prosecutions in courts through section 84 of the Indian Penal Code. It is based on the assumption that at the time of doing any crime, the defendant was suffering from severe mental illness and was incapable of acknowledging the nature of the crime and cannot differentiate between what is right or wrong behavior, hence they can make themselves not legally accountable for the crime.
An Insane person is one, who from birth had a defective mental capacity, in that there are no lucid intervals i.e.- it is perpetual. The people who cannot count, or who don’t know the names of their parents comes under this category. A lunatic is a person who becomes insane and whose incapacity might be at intervals, a madman is one who has permanent lunacy. Lunacy and madness are spoken off as acquired insanity, whereas idiocy is understood as natural insanity.
Section 84 of Indian Penal Code
Act of a person of unsound mind.—Nothing is an offense 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.Indian Penal Code
Origin of the Rules on the Plea of Insanity
According to M’Naghten Rule, it must be demonstrated, to establish the defense of insanity, that the accused worked under a fault at the time of the act so much as to be unaware of the nature and quality of the act he was doing. This definition is cannot be taken as full proof, as it fails to explain various aspects of insanity.
It is, therefore, important to note that the term “insanity” has a particular meaning in criminal law. It’s not necessarily used in its medical sense, but its legal significance must be understood. Therefore, insanity used as a defense refers to legal insanity and not medical insanity. The concept of ‘legal insanity’ refers to certain requirements to be met by the accused in court, according to the rules laid down in the law. Legal insanity is a limited concept than medical insanity
English Law on the Defence of Insanity
In English criminal law insanity, is considers a valid defense of crime. Clarkson and Keating have pointed out, that it had been the subject of “most debatable and heart-searching than almost any other aspect of the criminal law” form is desperately necessary because the defense of insanity is both over-exclusive, excluding defendants who are suffering from severe psychiatric disorders, and over-inclusive, encompassing defendants who are sane by any medical standards. However, this essay argues that adopting this Scottish statute would not be the answer to these problems. The basic definitions of insanity are based on the M’Naghten Rules. which are not about insanity medical definitions. In M’Naghten’s case in 1843, the judges declared the following insanity principles:
- All are presumed to be sane and to have enough reason, until proved contrary, to be responsible for their crimes.
- It must be clearly demonstrated in order to establish the defense of insanity that at the time of the act, the accused was working under such a defect of reason, from mental illness, as
- He did not know what he was doing was wrong
- He didn’t know the nature and the qualities of the act he was doing
The accused must, therefore, have to prove that he was suffering from a mental disorder in an effort to argue insanity, because either he was unaware of the nature and quality of the act, or he had not realized that his actions were evil.
What is the law regarding crimes committed by disillusioning insane people?
Well, the court explained that, such persons who have partial delusions and are clear at other times will nevertheless be held guilty for the crime.
Indian Law on the Defence of Insanity
To hold legal responsibility for a crime a criminal intention is necessary therefore the capacity of the wrong-doer to form a criminal intent is a relevant consideration in determining the criminal liability of that person.
The Indian Penal Code uses the sentence “mental soundness.” Under the code, the defense of insanity, or that can also be called the defense of mental insanity, comes from M’Naghten’s rule.
In Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, a person of an unsound mind shall act- Nothing is an offense committed by someone who is currently unable to know the nature of the act or does what is wrong or contrary to legislation due to a lack of a sound mind. This Section lays down the tests of responsibilities in cases of alleged unsoundness of minds.
The following are the ingredients of section 84:
- The act must be done by a person of unsound mind.
- Such a person must be incapable of knowing : (i) the nature of the act, or (ii) that the act was contrary to law, or (iii) that the act was wrong.
- Such incapacity must be because of the unsoundness of the mind of the offender.
- The incapacity of the nature stated above in point 2 must exist at the time of doing of the act constituting the offense
Defense for the following elements are to be established:
- The accused loses the state of mind at the time of the act.
- He was unaware of his act to know what was right or wrong which is contrary to the law. Here the term ‘wrong’ is different from the term ‘contrary to the law.’
Here the person cannot protect himself if he knew that the act which he has done was wrongful, even if he does not know that it was contrary to law or vise versa… legally the concept of insanity differs significantly from medical conception. The unsoundness of mind must exist at the time of the commission of the offense, not every insanity is considered as a sufficient excuse by law, there has to be a perfect interpretation of evidence of insanity presented in the court.
The distinction between Legal and Medical Insanity
Insanity in Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 sets out the legal answerable test as distinguished from the medical test. It can be observed that the absence of will arises not only from the absence of understanding maturity but also from a corrupt state of mind. This corrupt mind condition, which provides an exemption from criminal responsibility, differs from the medical and legal point of view. According to the medical point of view, it is probably correct to say that every person, at the time of committing a criminal act, is insane and therefore needs an exemption from criminal responsibility; while it is a legal point of view, a person must be held to be the same as long as he can distinguish between what is right and wrong; as long as the person knows that the action is carried out is contrary to the court of law.
It has been declared by the Supreme Court that “mentally ill” people and psychopaths are unable to prosecute exemption from a criminal case, as it is the defendant’s responsibility to exhibits insanity at the time the crime was committed. So in practice, it is not possible for every person who is mentally ill is exempt from criminal liability. There has to be a distinction between legal insanity and medical insanity. “Arijit Pasayat and the Bench of Justices, DK Jain, stated while upholding the life sentence of a man who cut off his wife’s head. The mere abnormality or insanity of mind, partial delusion, irresistible impulse, or compulsive behavior of a psychopath does not protect from criminal prosecution as provided by the apex court held Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Bench stated that Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides immunity from criminal prosecution to persons of unsound mind, would not be available to an accused, as the burden of proving insanity would lie with them, as provided in Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act.
In the case of Hari Singh Gond v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court observed that Section 84 sets out the legal test of responsibility in cases of alleged mental insanity. There is no definition of ‘mind soundness’(means that your thinking is clear enough that you are aware of what you are doing and you would be responsible for your action) in the Indian Penal Code. However, the courts have mainly treated this expression as equivalent to insanity. But the term ‘insanity’ itself does not have a proper definition. It is a term used to describe various degrees of mental disorder. So, every mentally ill person is not ipso facto (by the fact) exempt from criminal responsibility. A distinction must be made between legal insanity and medical insanity. A court is concerned with legal insanity, not medical insanity.
In the case of Surendra Mishra v. the State of Jharkhand, It was pointed out that ‘every person suffering from mental illness is not ipso facto exempt from criminal liability.’ Furthermore, in the case of Shrikant Anandrao Bhosale v. the State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court, in determining the offense under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, held that’ it is the totality of the circumstances seen in the light of the recorded evidence’ that would prove that the offense was committed.’ It was added: “The unsoundness of the mind before and after the incident is a pertinent fact.”
Unsoundness of mind must be at the time of the commission of the Act.
The first thing a court to be considered when defending insanity is whether the accused has established that he was unsound at the time of committing the act. The word “insanity” is not used in Section 84 of the penal code.
In Rattan Lal v. the State of M.P., it was well established by the court that the crucial point of time at which the unsound mind should be established is the time when the crime is actually committed and whether the accused was in such a state of mind as to be entitled to benefit from Section 84 can only be determined from the circumstances that lead, attended and followed the crime. In other words, it is the behavior lead, attendant, and after the event that may be relevant in determining the mental condition of the accused at the time of the commission of the offense but not those remote in time.
In Kamala Bhuniya v. West Bengal State, the accused was tried for her husband’s murder with an axis. A suit was filed against the accused, she alleged to be insane at the time of the incident, the investigating officer recorded at the initial stage about the accused’s mental insanity. The prosecution’s duty was to arrange for the accused’s medical examination, it was held that there was no motive for murder. The accused made no attempt to flee, nor made any attempt to remove the charging weapon Failure on the part of the prosecution was to discharge his initial responsibility for the presence of mens-rea in the accused at the time of the commission of the offense. The accused was entitled to benefit from Section 84. And hence accused was proved insane at the time of the commission of the offense and was held guilty of Culpable Homicide and not of Murder.
Incapacity to know the nature of the act
The word “incapacity to know the nature of the act” expressed in Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 refers to that state of mind when the accused was unable to esteem the effects of his conduct. It would mean that the accused is insane in every possible sense from his words, and such insanity must sweep away his ability to rise in the physical effects of his acts.
Incapacity to know right or wrong
In order to use the defense of insanity under the latter part of Section 84, namely “or to do what is either wrong or contrary to the law,”.
However, the “insanity” term is not mentioned under this provision. The Indian Penal Code uses the sentence “mental soundness.” Under the code, the defense of insanity, or that can also be called the defense of mental insanity, comes from M’Naghten’s rule.
In Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, a person of an unsound mind shall act- Nothing is an offense committed by someone who is currently unable to know the nature of the act or does what is wrong or contrary to legislation due to a lack of a sound mind.
It should be noted that the framers of the IPC preferred to use the expression “insanity of mind” instead of the term “insanity.” Insanity’s scope is very limited, while the mind’s insanity covers a large area.
For this defense, the following elements are to be established-
- The person was in a state of unsoundness of mind at the time of the act.
- And was unable to know the nature of the act or do what was either wrong or contrary to the law. The term ‘wrong’ is different from the term ‘contrary to the law.’
The legal concept of insanity differ from medical conceptions. Not every form of insanity is recognized as a capable excuse by law.
Cases of Insanity
Intoxication means the condition of having physical or mental control notably diminished by the effects of alcohol or narcotic substances like drugs, cocaine, etc results in disturbances in the level of consciousness, sensibility, sensation, judgment, affect, or behavior, or other psychophysiological functions and responses. We find this term in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in Section 85 and 86.
The early common law made no grant because of intoxication. The earliest case in England wherein the court approved the death sentence for a homicide committed in extreme intoxication is Reninger v. Fogossa. This rigorous law prevailed up to the early nineteenth century, although the efforts by Blackstone and Coke to hold drunkenness an aggravation met with no success. Wharton held the view that ‘there could rarely be a conviction for homicide if drunkenness avoided responsibility’. Story stressed, “the law not permitting a man to avail himself of the excuse of his gross vice and misconduct to shelter himself from the legal consequences of such crime. But the role was gradually relaxed in later judicial decisions during that century.
an involuntarily intoxicated person from criminal liability under the code of IPC, stating that mens rea was absent, how can it only punish a voluntarily intoxicated person, because in this case also, he loses control and has no knowledge of what he is doing. This was based on the maxim that, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’, which means that the act does not make one guilty unless he has a guilty intention. This is considered a serious issue because, in law, no innocent person should be wrongly punished. But this paper clearly elaborates that the situations needed to be considered and identified before concluding the case. The legal provisions relating to intoxication and the test used to determine liability on this issue is also well discussed. The famous ‘Dutch Courage Rule’ is discussed in the paper, which gives a different connotation to this matter.
What are sections 85 & 86 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860?
Section 85 : Act of a person incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will.—Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, is, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law; provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.
Section 86 : Offence requiring a particular intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated.—In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SECTION 85 AND SECTION 86 OF THE IPC
Both sections 85 and 86 of the Indian Penal Code come under Chapter IV of the Code. It contains the General Exceptions to the imposition of the provisions or penalties that will be contained within the Code of the criminal law.
The main difference between section 85 and section 86 is that section 85 is a general exception but section 86 contains the conditions to the general exception that are laid down in section 85.
Section 85 mainly contains the general exception for the offense committed by a person who will be intoxicated without his knowledge or against his will or consent. It will render the persons who are not capable of knowing the nature of his act; can be penalized according to the provisions of the Code.
The main thing to be noted in this section is that when a person who has been intoxicated by fraudulent will not be liable to be prosecuted as he did not intend to commit the act that led his intoxication. So the act which is conducted by such an intoxicated person was not undertaken by a necessary means and therefore such a person is not responsible for the problems caused by those acts.
Section 86 mainly says that when a person who was voluntarily intoxicated will be treated as one who had full control of his mental faculties. He will be treated as a person who commits the offense in the state of intoxication. The section also gives provision that deals with the intention of the concerned intoxicated person having to be committed to the criminal act.
When a person is drunk or not, if there is evidence that he was constituted a crime, he will be liable to be prosecuted. This provision also considers the degree of intoxication of the person committing the punishable act. A man is drunk and he is still in a condition to decipher right from wrong. So the drunk will not form a defense to the crime committed under its influence. The accused is needed to prove that he was firstly drunk and not aware of the consequences of his actions. By proving this, he will be incapable to form the necessary intent behind the Commission of the concerned act.
How can a person escape liability on grounds of intoxication?
A person is intoxicated or not, if there is any evidence that he was constituted a crime, he will be liable to be prosecuted in courts. These provisions also include the degree of intoxication of the person committing the punishable act. Here the accused need to prove that he was firstly drunk and he is not aware of the consequences of his actions or he has been forced to drunk by someone. By proving this in front of the court he will be incapable to form the necessary intent behind the Commission of the concerned act.
In Section 86 it is stated that the person with particular knowledge of intoxication committing the crime. And If the prosecution found that there is some particular intention then that person should be held liable. Unless that person intoxicated by a thing him without his knowledge or against his will.
However, it should be noted that only involuntary drunkenness may be pleaded as an excuse but not voluntary drunkness
Courts always look into the degree of soundness of mind in the state of drunkenness. Bas Dev vs. the State of P.E.P.S.U.(Patiala and East Punjab States Union)[1956, AIR 488] is a famous case relating to intoxication. In this case, a person attending a marriage drunk heavily and as he wanted to sit, he asked a boy sitting on a chair to move aside and the boy hesitated. He became annoyed by this conduct of the boy and shot him with a pistol. The boy died. He surrendered before the police and claimed the defense of intoxication. But the Court held that he cannot claim the defense as his acts of surrendering before the police after the killing shows that he was not in an unsound state of mind.
Intoxication in Indian Law:
In Indian Law, Intoxication is mention in chapter IV i.e, general exceptions of Indian Penal Code in Section 85 & 86. The burden of proof shifts to the accused to give valid points of exceptions. In section 85 the accused have to prove that he was involuntarily intoxicated and he is unaware of his consequences of such act done at that time. He or she does not know about taking off that intoxicating substances or some have forced him or her to take against his or her will. Only these two conditions help the accused to get exemption under this section. Whereas in Section 86 the accused must have some knowledge or intention which are the important factors of this section. The person will be prosecuted under this section if that person understands what he or she has done or caused injury to the other with full sense. As voluntary intoxication is not exempted in the Indian Penal Code.
Cases of Intoxication
Ruby Wax — “When any other part of your body gets sick, you get sympathy.” “It’s as though as a species we have no brakes, only breakdowns.”
Indian Penal Code covered the topic of intoxication and insanity as a part of general exceptions. In these sections a person gets liable for his mental disbalance at the time of doing his act.
From Section 84 it is to be suggested that there should be a well-defined definition of the term ‘mental insanity’ to avoid the various controversies and confusions that arise in understanding and differentiating between the ‘mental disease’ and the actual insanity of mind sought by the Code or the so-called ‘legal insanity’ to make the defense available to the accused. The scope of Section 84 should be expanded to incorporate the defense of automatism under the defense of an unhealthy mind, just as it is recognized by the English criminal law system.
And from Section 85 and 86 only involuntary intoxication is used to get exemption not voluntary intoxication. Some specific tests like foreseeability tests and Dutch courage Rule are to be performed so that the accused cannot be exempted or released from grievous offense even if the intoxication is taken as a defense.
Recently it stated that even if the person is involuntarily intoxicated the gravity of the offense is very severe then he will be held liable for the offense.
I am a 23-year old Mathematics (Hons.) graduate who has taken up law because it’s my choice :3
Currently Pursuing my 3 years L.l.b degree from Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Siliguri