Skip to content


Ranganagulu Vs. Mullackal Devaswam - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 257 of 1969
Judge
Reported inAIR1974Ker25
ActsTravancore-Cochin Temple Entry (Removal of Disabilities) Act - Sections 9
AppellantRanganagulu
RespondentMullackal Devaswam
Respondent Advocate V.G. Sankaranarayana Pillai and; P. Karunakaran Nair, Advs.
Cases ReferredAdamson v. Motor Vehicle Trust
Excerpt:
- - 4. our attention has been drawn to works like halsbury's laws of england. if a particular tort requires a particular state of mind, for instance, malice or some specific intent, then insanity may be a good defence to disprove the existence of such malice or intent. similarly, if the action of the defendant is not a voluntary act, but the act of an automaton, like the act of a fever patient in his delirium or of a somnambulist in his sleep or of an epileptic in his paroxysm, then, for such an act. (1952) 1 all er 925). again, if the insanity of the defendant is of so extreme a type as to preclude any genuine intention to do the act complained of there is no liability on the defendant since there is no voluntary act on his part (see also tindale v......and decorum in temples and the due observance of the religious rites and ceremonies performed in temples. rules have been framed: and the rules, inter alia, prohibit entry into the sanctum sanctorum (srikoil). the kitchen (thidapalli), etc., prohibit the entry into the temple (nalamhalom, belikapura, etc.) of males with coat, shirt, vest, etc. and prohibit the entry of all into the temple premises with footwear. one of the rules rule 18, provides that, if any person contravenes any of the provisions of the rules or disobeys any direction lawfully given in pursuance thereof and renders necessary any purificatory ceremony according to the custom and usage, such person shall be liable to pay the costs of the necessary ceremony and the same shall be recoverable from him as arrears of.....
Judgment:

Raghavan, C.J.

1. We are told that there Is no decision of any Indian Court on the question involved in this case; and we also find that 'there is singularly little English authority' on this aspect of the law (vide Winfield on Tort). The question relates to the liability of a person of unsound mind for a tort committed by him.

2. The appellant is a Hindu belonging to Ramnad District; and he used to come to Alleppey often. And during such visits, he used to so to the Mullackal temple and worship there. On 7th October 1961, he entered the temple wearing shirt and shoes and broke the idol of the deity; and he was caught and handed over to the police. From his behaviour, the police suspected that he must have been insane; and they handed him over to the nearest doctor. The doctor kept him under observation till 21st October and issued a medical certificate stating

'Indifferent to the surroundings. Does not sleep at night. Talks incoherently. Laughs without any reason.'

And from this he came to the conclusion that the appellant was insane.

3. The appellant was prosecuted before the criminal court for criminal trespass, mischief, etc.: and the magistrate acquitted him holding that he was insane. The matter was taken up in appeal before this Court; and this Court confirmed the acquittal. Thereafter came the present suit for damages for breaking the idol and also for the expenses incurred by the respondent (the Travancore Devaswom Board) for conducting purification ceremony in the temple. The trial court held that the appellant was insane: the trial court also fixed the damages including the expenses for the purification ceremony at Rs. 3202.63. In the suit, the appellant was not represented by any guardian as he was then normal: and he himself filed the written statement and was also examined as a witness. (In this Court also, he is not represented by guardian.) It was argued before the trial court by the counsel of the appellant that, since the appellant was insane at the relevant time, he was not liable to be mulcted in damages -- in other words, he was not liable in tort. This argument was met by the counsel of the respondent by an alternate argument that, even if the appellant was insane, since the liability for meeting the expenses for purification and for re-installing the idol was a liability falling under the relevant rules framed by the Devaswom Board under the Travancore-Cochin Temple Entry (Removal of Disabilities) Act--a statutory liability, it was in the nature of an absolute liability and therefore the appellant was liable. This argument was rejected by the trial court, which held that the relevant rules were ultra vires. In appeal before the District Judge by the Devaswom Board, the main contention related only to the second question. It was conceded that the appellant was insane at the relevant time: but it was urged that, since the liability cast on him was a statutory liability in the nature of an absolute liability, he was liable. And this contention was accepted by the District Judge. Since there was no controversy regarding the quantum of the damages, the amount awarded by the Munsif was confirmed.

4. Our attention has been drawn to works like Halsbury's Laws of England. 3rd Edn., Vol. 37. P. 134. paragraph 236, Fleming on the Law of Torts. 1937 Edn., p. 27, Pollock's Law of Torts. 15th Edn., p. 48. Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, 12th Edn., p. 88, paragraph 163, Salmond on the Law of Torts, 15th Edn., P. 583. topic 161 and Winfield on Tort, 8th Edn., P. 733. What we have been able to gather by way of principles from these learned authors may be stated.

5. The M'Naghten Rules applicable to crimes regarding the test of insanity do not apply to the civil law-tort (Williams v. Williams: 1964 AC 698), since the object of the law of tort is compensation and not punishment (White v. White: 1950 P. 39). Insanity by itself is not a defence in tort. But. if a particular tort requires a particular state of mind, for instance, malice or some specific intent, then insanity may be a good defence to disprove the existence of such malice or intent. Similarly, if the action of the defendant is not a voluntary act, but the act of an automaton, like the act of a fever patient in his delirium or of a somnambulist in his sleep or of an epileptic in his paroxysm, then, for such an act. the defendant is not liable (Morriss v. Marsden: (1952) 1 All ER 925). Again, if the insanity of the defendant is of so extreme a type as to preclude any genuine intention to do the act complained of there is no liability on the defendant since there is no voluntary act on his part (see also Tindale v. Tindale: (1950) 4 DLR 363 (Can). Whether the insanity is or is not of that degree is a question which has to be decided in each case depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. If the defendant knew the nature and quality of his act, it is no defence that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong ( (1952) 1 All ER 923). In wrongs dependent upon negligence, the conduct of the defendant must be judged by reference to his knowledge or means of knowledge: and in such cases, insanity may be relevant as evidence that the necessary knowledge or means of knowledge did not exist. However, insanity is no defence to an action for negligence in operating a motor vehicle. Adamson v. Motor Vehicle Trust; (1957) 58 WALR 56.

6. These are the principles or the main principles we have been able to gather from the several works on tort placed before us; and we have to consider the evidence before us in the light of these principles.

7. As we have indicated earlier. the evidence available regarding the mental condition of the appellant is contained in the medical certificate (Ex. D-1) issued by the doctor (Dw. 2) and the doctor's evidence in the box. The four things mentioned in Ex. D-1 are that the appellant was indifferent to the surroundings, that he did not sleep at night, that he talked incoherently and that he laughed without any reason. The evidence of Dw 2 is also to the same effect. The doctor was cross-examined on these points to bring out whether any one of these conditions could by itself indicate mental derangement: and the doctor admitted that none of these conditions by itself would be sufficient to hold that the person was Insane. But the doctor stated that, considering all these circumstances together, he came to the conclusion that the appellant was insane. This evidence, it must be stated, is not sufficient to hold that the appellant was not in a position to know the nature and quality of his act: nor can it be stated from this evidence that the appellant's acts were involuntary.

8. Now that both the lower Courts have concurrently held, though on this evidence alone, that the appellant was insane and that the magistrate and this Court In revision also held so in the criminal case, we have to consider whether the insanity was of that degree in which the appellant would not have known the quality and the nature of his act. As stated already, it is difficult to hold, with the evidence of the doctor and his certificate, that the appellant was not in a state to know the nature and quality of his act. Moreover, the appellant himself gave instructions for preparing his written statement and also appeared through counsel not represented by a guardian. He also gave evidence that he was never insane: that he occasionally had dizziness, when he used to sit down and also used to lose consciousness; and that, after some time, he used to regain consciousness. In the light of these (of course, these were after the incident), we are even tempted to say that much importance should not be attached to the medical certificate, at any rate, it is not possible to hold that the appellant was incapable of understanding the nature and quality of his act: obviously, the appellant's act in breaking the idol was not an involuntary act either -- the act of an automaton. Even if he was under the impression that he had the right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple or he was not aware of the consequences of his act, still, if he knew the nature of Ms act and if the act was not an involuntary act, he is liable for the act if the act is tortious.

9. Now a word about the statutory liability. Under Section 9 of the Travancore-Cochin Temple Entry (Removal of Disabilities) Act, the Cochin Devaswom Board or the Travancore Devaswom Board as the case may be has power to make rules for carrying into effect the provisions of the Act, and such rules may provide for the maintenance of order and decorum in temples and the due observance of the religious rites and ceremonies performed in temples. Rules have been framed: and the rules, inter alia, prohibit entry into the sanctum sanctorum (Srikoil). the kitchen (Thidapalli), etc., prohibit the entry into the temple (Nalamhalom, Belikapura, etc.) of males with coat, shirt, vest, etc. and prohibit the entry of all into the temple premises with footwear. One of the Rules Rule 18, provides that, if any person contravenes any of the provisions of the rules or disobeys any direction lawfully given in pursuance thereof and renders necessary any purificatory ceremony according to the custom and usage, such person shall be liable to pay the costs of the necessary ceremony and the same shall be recoverable from him as arrears of public or land revenue or otherwise. In view of our decision that the appellant is liable under the general law of tort, we do not express any opinion on this aspect of the case. (The trial Court held that this rule was ultra vires, while the lower appellate Court, held otherwise.)

(After discussing the evidence regarding quantum of damages, the judgment proceeded -- Editor.)

10-11. In the result, we accept the finding of the District Judge that the appellant is liable: and to that extent we dismiss the second appeal. Regarding the quantum of the damages, we allow the second, appeal in part and reduce the amount to Rs. 1500/-. We also direct both parties to bear their respective costs throughout.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //