Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code

Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code

Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code

“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.”

In order to take the defence under this section it is not merely enough to simply take the plea of insanity, rather, based on the facts and circumstances of the case, the thing which is to be proved in front of the court of law is that the person who committed the offence, was suffering from unsoundness of mind at the time of the commission of the offence and was relatively not in a position to judge the nature and consequences of the act at that particular juncture of time.

is the fact that the terms unsoundness of mind and insanity are the terms used for referring to the same concept. The only difference between the two terms is that the phrase ‘Unsoundness of mind’ is used in Indian law while the term insanity is used in the English law.

A major point to be noted here is that the drafters of the Indian Penal Code 1860 chose the expression ‘Insanity of Mind’ in Place of the expression  ‘insanity’ with an objective to widen the horizons of the provision as  the term insanity of mind includes a lot wider perspective.

The legal maxim “Non compos mentis” is often used to address the person with a unsound state of mind. The maxim means ‘not of sound mind.’ Further, the unsoundness of mind can be of two types in terms of nature:

  1. Permanent unsoundness of mind (In the situation of permanent unsoundness of mind, a person is deprived of his thinking abilities and mental faculty permanently due to any psychological or mental problem)
  2. Temporary unsoundness of mind (in the situation of temporary unsoundness of mind, a person is temporarily in the state of loss of his motor skills and thinking capacity. This type of unsoundness of mind can be due to a number of reasons ranging from intoxication, intake of drugs etc.)

Essentials of section 84 of IPC:

  1. The act should be done by an individual of unsound mind
  2. Such individual should be impotent of judging and knowing:
    • The exact nature of the act done by him, or
    • The act committed by him is inconsistent with the law of the land, or
    • The act done by him was wrong
  1. The impotency thus caused to the individual should be due to the exclusive reason of unsoundness of Mind.
  2. The impotency mentioned above in Paras2 must exist at the time of doing the act constituting an offence.

In order to successfully plead the defence of ‘unsoundness of mind’, the essentials are required to be proved before the court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.


An important point which is very significant to be known is that the provision of ‘unsoundness of mind’ under Indian law has it origin from the McNaughton Rule under the English Law  as established in a decision of the House of Lords in the case of R v Daniel McNaughton by the judiciary of England. (R v Daniel McNaughten, 1843 RR 59: 8 ER 718 (HL).)

It should also be taken a note of that the McNaughton rules is also one of the important test to determine insanity along with few other tests.

In that case, in regards to the protection of insanity, the House of Lords devised the controversial McNaughton Rules based on the five questions which had been submitted to them. The connection came to be made in a case where McNaughton was charged with the murder by shooting Edward Drummond, who was England’s then-Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s Pvt Secretary.

The accused McNaughton provided medical evidence to show he was not in a sound state of mind at the time of committing the act. He said he had an irrational delusion that the Prime Minister was the only cause behind all of his problems.

He had also said he mistook Drummond for the prime minister as a result of the mad delusion and attempted his assassination by shooting him. The plea of insanity was admitted, and on the ground of insanity McNaughton was found not guilty.

The aforementioned decision was the focus of controversy in the House of Lords. It was then decided to take the opinions of all the judges on the rules concerning such cases.

Five questions were then presented to the Lords of Justice. A review of the responses to questions 2 and 3 and the conditions of section 84 of the IPC, 1860 would clearly indicate that the section was modelled on that answers.(Sudhakaran v State of Kerala, (2010) 10 SCC 582 [LNIND 2010 SC 1046] :AIR 2011 SC 265)


Ratan Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1971 SC 778.

The accused was in the habit of setting fire to his own clothes and house. It was held that this could hardly be called rational and was more likely verging on insanity. The Supreme Court accepted the plea of insanity raised by the accused and absolved him of criminal liability.

Bhikari v. State of Uttar Pradesh

The accused was working in the field. A few months before the occurrence, he had threatened to kill all the family members of the deceased. Further, on the date of the event, though there were other people around, he carefully chose only the children of the deceased’s family. All this indicated that his act ions were deliberate, pre meditated and not acts of an insane man.

SK Nair v. State of Punjab:

The accused tried to assault a person with a dagger. The deceased caught hold of him and said that the matter will be reported to the superiors. The accused retorted to the deceased with the words ‘only if you were still alive’ and inflicted a blow with a khukri on the deceased and killed him.

The defence of the accused was that he suffered from paranoia. A paranoid is not only a person of unsound mind, but also suffers from special and peculiar ideas and visions, which are different from other persons of unsound mind.

A paranoid within moments may behave wildly and then be normal again. The threat meted out by the accused to the deceased showed that at the time of the commission of the crime, the accused did not lose his sense of understanding. He was, therefore, convicted under s 302 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

State of Orissa v. Kalia Alias Debabrata Maharana:

The accused murdered three people and wounded others, although no prior enmity or motive had been identified. The witnesses said he fled from one location to another, and on his way, he indiscriminately attacked five people without any excuse or rhyme. The proof suggests that the appellant had long developed insanity and had the right to the protection of this section.


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