THE DEVELOPMENT OF LAW:
THE WILD BEAST TEST: –
This was the first test ever which evolved back in 1724. This was developed in the case of Rex v Arnold, where Judge Tracy instructed the jury that the accused is a man deprived of his understanding and memory and does not know what he was doing, no more than an infant, a brute or a wild beast, such a one is never an object of punishment.
The emphasis was on the lack of intellectual ability, rather than wild violence, ravenous beast image which comes to mind, the test continued to be used till 1840.
GOOD AND EVIL TEST: –
The test evolved in between1786-1825 which was applied in the case R v. Hadfield. This test set the “ability to differentiate between good and evil”. In this case, the accused was charged for high treason in an attempt to kill the king. The defense pleaded that he was not able to distinguish between good and evil and the applying the ‘Wild Beast Test’ would not be feasible. He was acquitted.
M’NAGHTEN RULE: –
In 1843, the plea of insanity was developed by the House of Lords in the historic case of R v. M’Naghten. The accused suffered from delusions that Sir Robert Peel, the then Prime Minister of Britain had injured him. He shot and killed Edward Drummond, Secretary to the PM. The accused took the plea of insanity. The medical evidence showcased that the accused was experiencing morbid delusions which carried him away beyond his control. The main principles enunciated by the House of Lords following the case were:
- Every person is assumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary is proved.
- To establish the defence of insanity, it must be clearly proved that at the time of commission of the offense, the person was not in control of his mind, as not to know the danger of the act s/he was committing.
- The test of wrongfulness of the act is the ability to distinguish what is conceived right and wrong, with regards to the criminal laws set in the country. Whether or not the person is aware of the act and its consequences.
Section 84 has been drafted in the light of McNaghten Rules. However, section 84 uses a much comprehensive term for it – “unsoundness of mind”, instead of “insanity”. The designer of our Penal Code used this word to the benefit of discarding with the need of defining insanity and artificially expanding the scope of different conditions and affliction of the mind which ordinarily do not come within its meaning, but which nonetheless stand on the same footing in regard to the exemption from criminal liability.
THE AMERICAN OUTLOOK: –
The defense of insanity in the US has always been relatively ambiguous, mainly due to its relationship with the English law, where the understanding and applicability has gone through a series of changes over time.
The United States have a varied idea in terms of insanity as defense due to their independent federal court system, although the 3 key issues have remained constant throughout the country:
- AVAILABILITY: Whether jurisdiction allows a defendant to plea insanity
- DEFINITION: Facts need to find conclusive proof for declaring the person mentally insane
- BURDEN OF PROOF: Whether it is the duty of the defendant to prove his insanity or does the burden of proof lie upon the prosecutor to prove sanity and provide the court with viable evidence that the criminal has a sane mind.
In the US, states that do not allow a defendant to avail the defense of insanity, have a system through which a defendant can prove his mental illness, thereby negating any criminal liability upon him.
Each of the states and the federal court system currently use the following “test” to determine insanity of the accused.
- M’NAGHTEN TEST: –
The main principle in this test is to determine if the accused is able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. This rule relies upon a knowledge based cognitive standard to determine what changed in the person during the commission of the offense. The M’Naghten test remained as the standard operating procedure for cases on mental insanity up until 1962. Presently, as many as 17 states in the US use M’Naghten test in their respective Penal Codes.
- CRITICISM OF THE M’NAGHTEN TEST: –
Mainly, the critics have challenged the basic premise of the rule. They argue that a major roadblock in the rule was its inability to address cases where the accused knew at the time, he was committing a wrongful act.
- IRRESISTIBLE IMPULSE: –
Insanity affects not only the rational faculties of the mind which guide our actions, but also our emotions which prompt our actions, and the will by which our actions are guided. Indian Law like the law of England, limits non-liability only to those cases in which insanity affects the cognitive faculties, because it is thought that those are the cases in which the exemptions rightly apply. Those cases in which insanity affects only the emotions and the will, subjecting the offenders to impulses, whilst it leaves the cognitive faculties unimpaired, have been left outside the exemptions because it is thought that the object of criminal law is to make people control their insane as well as sane impulses.
- MODEL PENAL CODE: –
Through jurisprudential interpretation across America, a Model Penal Code was developed to address the shortcomings of other “tests”. The ALI (American Law Institute) provided standard legal insanity levels which serve as a compromise between M’Naghten rules and the Irresistible Impulse Tests. Under the new MPC standards, the defendant is not responsible for criminal liability “if at the time of committing the crime, as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to control his conduct to the requirement of the law”. These tests take into account both the logical ability and voluntary capacity of insanity.
3. BURDEN OF PROOF:
In most of the states, the burden of proving insanity is upon the defendant through preponderance of the evidence and medical opinion. Only a few states confer the burden is placed upon the prosecution to prove the mental fitness of the accused.
THE INDIAN PERSPECTIVE: –
In India, Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code provides legal as well as medical tests. It can be seen that the absence of will arises out of a morbid mind and lack of understanding. To use the defense of section 84, it must be proved in the court that at the time of committing of the offence, the accused was insane, non-compos mentis (not of sound mind) and that the unsoundness of mind was to a level and nature as to fulfil one of the tests laid down in the section. These are:
First, the accused was unaware of the nature of the act, and
Second, the accused was not able to understand by reason of unsoundness of mind that what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.
The first category covers two situations, namely, unconscious reflex and the mistake of fact due to unsoundness of mind as a defense. For example, if an insane person cuts off the head of a man sleeping on the road, because it would be fun to watch him searching for his head when he awoke, the act shows that he did not know the gravity of his act. In fact, he had no idea that his fun could never happen, the moment the head was separated from the rest of the man’s body, as the man would never recover consciousness.
The second category is for those cases wherein a man by reason of delusion is unable to distinguish between what is right and wrong. 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. Mentally sound is not defined anywhere in the IPC. The court has mainly treated this expression as insanity itself. It is a very general term which does not have a set definition. Not every person who is mentally ill is thereby exempted of criminal liability. Court distinguishes between medical and legal insanity.
Another leading case on the issue is Surendra Mishra v State of Jharkhand, the Supreme Court held that the accused who seeks exoneration from criminal liability of an act under section 84 is to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity. Merely, because the accused is conceited, odd and his brain is not all right, or that the mental or physical ailments from which he suffers has rendered his intellect and attacked his emotions in a certain unusual act.
Murder is the most common crime in which the plea of insanity was raised in almost 78 out of 102 cases (76.5%). It is clear that among the 102 cases, 92 were appeals against conviction. Insanity plea is most likely to succeed with a 17% success rate in the Indian High Courts.
A PLEA FOR INTRODUCTION OF DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY IN INDIA: –
Although M’Naghten rules still hold fast in England despite multiple recommendations from the Royal Commission, a new defense to murder, known as “Diminished Responsibility,” was introduced by the Homicide Act of 1957. If established, it entitles the accused to be found guilty of manslaughter (i.e., Culpable Homicide) instead of murder.
The Law Commission of India, keeping in mind the growing mental health issues expressed the idea of introducing the test of diminished responsibility under section 84 of the IPC. They are hostile to this idea since it would tend to complicate medico-legal issues in criminal trails.
It is respectfully recommended that the law commission’s view needs to be modified since it is not in compliance with the latest scientific and technological nuances made during the last century in this direction. Assuming that all three components of the mind are those controlling the cognitive, emotional and the will, section 84 only exempts one of those who’s rational decision-making facilities are affected. As such, the section has been regarded too narrow and outdated, inasmuch as it makes no provision for a case where an accused’s emotions and will are so affected that he is unable to display the control over his cognitive faculties.
Courts in India have also stressed the need for implementing a more progressive attitude in the application of the principle enunciated in section 84 of the IPC for determining the criminal responsibility of a person suffering from the “mental disorder”, in the light of recent advances in medical sciences, especially in the field of psychiatry. The development of psychiatry as a recognized branch of medical science calls for a revision of the law as to what should constitute ‘unsoundness of mind’, for the purpose of section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.
Therefore, the Indian law should be amended in the line with the English law and the defense of diminished responsibility be recognized as a partial defense to murder under section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The liability should be reduced from murder into culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 300 of the IPC, 1860.
 Rex v Arnold, (1724) 16 How. St. Tr. 765.
 R v. Hadfield, (1800) 27 How St. Tr. 765
 R v. M’Naghten,  8 E.R. 718.
 supra note 1.
 SS HUDA, PRINCIPLES OF LAW OF CRIMES IN BRITISH INDIA, 271 (Calcutta Butterworth 1902).
 Aaron Larson, What is the Insanity Defense, EXPERT LAW (Apr. 7, 2018), https://www.expertlaw.com/library/criminal-law/what-insanity-defense.
 Monte Durham v. United States, 214 F.2d 862.
 AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE, Model Penal Code-full, INTERNET ARCHIVE (January 1, 1962) https://archive.org/details/ModelPenalCode_ALI/mode/2up.
 THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Burden of Proving Insanity-18 U.S.C. § 17(b), January 22, 2020) https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-638-burden-proving-insanity-18-usc-17b.
 Hari Singh Gond v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2008) 16 SCC 109.
 Surendra Mishra v State of Jharkhand, AIR 2011 SC 627.
 RONALD SCHOUTEN AND REBECCA W. BRENDEL, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL COMPREHENSIVE CLINICAL PSYCHIATRY 1155 (Mosby 2008) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323047432500871.