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The IdiotViews: 743
Sep 06, 2008 6:43 pmThe Idiot#

An idiot is one who (as per the new definiton by the supreme court):

~is unable to count up to 20.

~is unable to list the days of the week.

~do not know their fathers or mothers or the like.

said the judgement by Justices Arijit Pasayat and M K Sharma. (The court was dealing with a case from Madhya Pradesh where Hari Singh Gond murdered his grandfather-in-law and then claimed innocence on the grounds of idiocy.)They added that it was for the accused to prove they were idiots or otherwise of unsound mind.

This test does strike as rather bizarre considering that idiocy/insanity is a defence in murder etc...kinda rather easy for the accused to plead insanity. Is it not?? n what was the definition of insanity hitherto?? 'Cos the court felt that the earlier definition was too harsh on the accused & 'It is almost impossible for a person to qualify as an idiot, says the Court and therefore, few can expect to get a reprieve for an offence.'(???????)

Private Reply to Ritu

Sep 07, 2008 6:44 amre: The Idiot#


As for the disability to count up to twenty I am sure that Honorable judges thought in relation to making law and also in re early jurisprudence. If Prophet Moses knew how to count beyond the number of fingers in his hands He could have made twenty commandments counting his toes too

About those seven days in a week we did not have digital numerical counting system that we could have made ten days week ten month year and also a convenient 100 days per year and also reach mega-years and Giga years. But for the digital system we could not have conceived infinity and thereby reach the concept of the Almighty.

Can we not apply the idea of `ignoratio legis Neminem excusat? And include insanity in it?

Private Reply to charuhasan

Sep 08, 2008 4:11 pmre: re: re: re: The Idiot#

Exactly my point too Charu...why should the law be lenient to 'idiots'(whether by ole definition or the new)?? okay you (generic) are an idiot but you did commit a murder, so why should the law be lenient for you??...& does not insanity also give a loophole to criminals to escape their punishment by pleading insanity even where there is none?

Old man Jack is brought to court for alleged rape. He pleads guilty by reason of insanity.

" Insanity?" asks the judge. "You look perfectly sane to me."

"Oh I am," says the old man."It's sex I'm crazy about."

Private Reply to Ritu

Sep 13, 2008 3:08 pmre: re: re: re: re: The Idiot#

Marielena Alvarez
It should be for a psychiatrist to determine whether the person is insane, faking it or perhaps temporarily insane. Not sure what proof is required for that in India. Was a psychiatric evaluation performed on the alleged perpetrator? It can be ordered by a judge or requested by legal counsel.

Not knowing who your relatives are, lots of people who are adopted do not know their relatives. There are those who choose not to keep in touch with family, perhaps a toxic or abusive relationship would lead someone to completely separate from their family and not associate with them, so their children would not know that side of the family.

Private Reply to Marielena Alvarez

Sep 25, 2008 3:40 amre: The Idiot#

Vijay Nair

To understand the way law thinks, one has to delve a bit deeper into Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Here are a few definitions:

"Section 39. Voluntarily

A person is said to cause an effect "voluntarily" when he causes it by means whereby he intended to cause it, or by means which, at the time of employing those means, he knew or had reason to believe to be likely to cause it.

Section 84. 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 this particular case, Justice Pasayat has lucidly explained the reason:

"6. Under Section 84 IPC, a person is exonerated from liability for doing an act on the ground of unsoundness of mind if he, at the time of doing the act, is either incapable of knowing (a) the nature of the act, or (b) that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law. The accused is protected not only when, on account of insanity, he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act, but also when he did not know either that the act was wrong or that it was contrary to law, although he might know the nature of the act itself. He is, however, not protected if he knew that what he was doing was wrong, even if he did not know that it was contrary to law, and also if he knew that what he was doing was contrary to law even though he did not know that it was wrong. The onus of proving unsoundness of mind is on the accused. But where during the investigation previous history of insanity is revealed, it is the duty of an honest investigator to subject the accused to a medical examination and place that evidence before the Court and if this is not done, it creates a serious infirmity in the prosecution case and the benefit of doubt has to be given to the accused. The onus, however, has to be discharged by producing evidence as to the conduct of the accused shortly prior to the offence and his conduct at the time or immediately afterwards, also by evidence of his mental condition and other relevant factors. Every person is presumed to know the natural consequences of his act. Similarly every person is also presumed to know the law. The prosecution has not to establish these facts.

7. There are four kinds of persons who may be said to be non compos mentis (not of sound mind), i.e., (1) an idiot; (2) one made non compos by illness (3) a lunatic or a mad man and (4.) one who is drunk. An idiot is one who is of non-sane memory from his birth, by a perpetual infirmity, without lucid intervals; and those are said to be idiots who cannot count twenty, or tell the days of the week, or who do not know their fathers or mothers, or the like, (See Archbold's Criminal Pleadings, Evidence and Practice, 35th Edn. pp.31-32; Russell on Crimes and Misdemeanors, 12th Edn. Vol., p.105; 1 Hala's Pleas of the Grown 34). A person made non compos mentis by illness is excused in criminal cases from such acts as are- committed while under the influence of his disorder, (See 1 Hale PC 30). A lunatic is one who is afflicted by mental disorder only at certain periods and vicissitudes, having intervals of reason, (See Russell, 12 Edn. Vol. 1, p. 103; Hale PC 31). Madness is permanent. Lunacy and madness are spoken of as acquired insanity, and idiocy as natural insanity.

8. Section 84 embodies the fundamental maxim of criminal law, i.e., actus non reum facit nisi mens sit rea" (an act does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intention). In order to constitute an offence, the intent and act must concur; but in the case of insane persons, no culpability is fastened on them as they have no free will (furios is nulla voluntas est)."

As for the onus to prove, it is always on the person who alleges the existence of a certain state of affair.  Once he does all that he can to discharge this onus, the onus to disprove shifts on to the person who challenges the existence of such a state of affair.  In the case at hand, what the prosecution first has to prove beyond reasonable doubt is that a murder has been committed and that it has been committed by the accused.  The general exception available to the accused under section 84 would be dealt with thereafter.





Vijay Nair, Partner
KNM & Partners, Law Offices

Private Reply to Vijay Nair

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