K.N. Mudaliyar, J.
1. Thangavelu Asari, the appellant herein, appeals against his conviction for an offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, for committing the murder of his wife Dhanalakshmi on 16th January, 1969, at about 10 P.M.
In our view, the best way of presenting the prosecution case would be to summarise the evidence of P.W. 2, the daughter of the appellant and Dhanalakshmi, the murdered victim. P.W. 2 Narasammal went to bed along with her parents on the night of 16th January, 1969, at about 10 P.M. She has two younger sisters and one younger brother. P.W. 2 woke up on hearing the sound of a passing bus. Then she saw her mother with blood coming from her chest. Her father Thangavelu Asari (the appellant) was sitting near the feet of his wife with a knife on his right hand. When P.W. 2 attempted to cry, the appellant appeased her saying that she need not get frightened and that he himself had stabbed her mother with the knife. The appellant laid his daughter P.W. 2 on the bed and asked her to go to sleep. At dawn, P.W. 2 got up and found her father sitting on the threshold of the front door steps. The door was bolted from outside. She states further in her evidence that the appellant went to Tirupathi about one month prior to the occurrence, and on his return, he was s'off his mental balance.' About fifteen days thereafter, he became normal. No doubt, she asserts that at the time of the occurrence, he was mentally normal. We will later advert to the other portions of her evidence during the discussion of the nature the of offence, if any.
2. On the following morning (17th January, 1969) at about 7 A.M. P.W. 3 saw the appellant sitting on the threshold of his house. He was gloomy. She asked him as to why he was so gloomy. He told her that he had stabbed his wife to death.
3. P.W. 4 is another witness who went to his field and returned to the village at about 7 A.M., on 17th January, 1969. He saw a crowd at the Mariamman Temple and he was told that the appellant had murdered his wife. While there, the appellant himself called him, took him inside his house and showed him the dead body of his wife, and he saw a bleeding injury in the middle portion of the chest. P.W. 5 is a native of that village who was returning from (to) the village at about 7 A.M. He saw a crowd near the house of the appellant. The appellant called him and asked him to engage four men to carry the dead body of his wife to the police station at Pennagaram, saying that he had stabbed his wife to death.
4. The village munsif, P.W. 7, came to the spot at about 9 A.M., on 17th January, 1969. He got the appellant tied to a pole; and he recorded a statement Exhibit P-1, from P.W. 1. He went and saw the dead body of Dhanalakshmi with bleeding injuries on the chest. The village munsif mentions about his questioning the appellant and the appellant replying that because his (appellant's) wife refused access to him on the previous night, he stabbed her to death. On the same evening at about 7-30 or 8 P.M., the police came and recorded the statement of the appellant attested by P.W. 7, the admissible portion of which is Exhibit P-4. Accordingly the police seized M.O. 1, knife from the appellant. There was blood thereon, and the subsequent chemical analysis proved that the weapon M.O. 1, was stained with human blood. All the villagers requested P.W. 1 who is studying in XI standard to proceed to Rengapuram where the village munsif was residing. He made the journey a second time, met the village munsif and gave him the information. As already stated P.W. 7, recorded the statement, Exhibit P-1 from P.W. 1. It is unnecessary for us to notice in detail the various stages of investigation conducted by P.W. 13. However, there is one other important piece of evidence, namely, a judicial confession recorded by P.W. 12. The said confession statement is marked as Exhibit P-15 in this case. M.O. 1, knife was also recovered from accused as a result of Exhibit P-4.
5. The plea of the appellant in the trial Court is either one of complete ignorance of the crime or one of denial.
6. We will deal with the evidence in this case to find out whether the offence of murder has been made out on the basis of the prosecution evidence.
7. The real question that falls for our determination is whether the appellant was, by reason of unsoundness of mind, incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law. In other words, whether the exception provided in Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, would avail the appellant.
8. The evidence of the daughter of the appellant P.W. 2, Narasammal, is that the appellant and his wife never quarrelled and that they were leading a happy life. She states that sometime prior to the occurrence the accused-appellant was suffering from mental disease and he used to break pots in his house and run along the street. According to P.W. 2, the appellant went to Tirupathi to get it cured and on his return, he was off his mental balance and when he was off his balance he used to break mud pots in the house and threaten to do away passers-by. According to her, at times, he was even kept under chains. She further states that her mother used to brood over it, weep and even starve most of the days. According to P.W. 2, some fifteen days after he returned from Tirupathi, he became normal and at that time he was attending to his avocation, namely, the avocation of a goldsmith. When P.W. 2 met him on the next morning, he was very gloomy. The appellant never attempted to run away or escape.
9. P.W. 6, the mother of the deceased Dhanalakshmi, states in her evidence that there was absolute cordiality between the husband and the wife. According to her, the appellant was insane for some time. She went and saw her son-in-law (the appellant). Her daughter, the deceased Dhanalakshmi, was very much worried over it. Even P.W. 3 states that she found the appellant to be gloomy seated on the threshold of his house.
10. P.W. 4 states that the appellant and his wife never quarrelled and that they were leading a happy life. Sometime prior to the occurrence, the appellant was suffering from mental disease and he used to break pots in his house and run along the street. P.W. 5 is a villager belonging to Nallapurampatti and he knew the appellant and his wife for the past eight years. According to him, their relationship was very cordial.
11. It is important to notice the testimony given by Dr. Habibullah, P.W. 9. His evidence is that he examined the appellant as to his mental condition. The appellant was kept under observation from 28th January, 1969 to 15th February 1969. According to the doctor, the appellant is a schizophrenia with a tendency to turn maniac. Exhibit P-9 is the certificate. In his cross-examination, it has been elicited that a case-sheet was maintained wherein the condition of the patient was noted every day. This case-sheet has not been produced before the Court, as the same was not asked for. The doctor was also questioned by the Court. The doctor said that the onset of schizophrenia can never be sudden and that it is gradual either on account of hereditary characteristics or on account of environmental effects.
12. P.W. 12, the Sub-Magistrate, Harur, recorded the confession statement of the appellant which is marked as Exhibit P-15. In cross-examination, he states that he was not informed that the Inspector of Police had moved the Sub-Magistrate, Dharmapuri, for examining the accused as to his mental condition. According to him, even on the date when he recorded Exhibit P-15, he was not made aware of the fact. The Sub-Magistrate frankly states that had he known about it, he would not have recorded the confessional statement of the appellant.
13. P.W. 13, the Inspector of Police, Dharmapuri, speaks to Exhibit D-1, dated 21st January, 1969, which is the requisition sent by him for sending the appellant for medical examination. P.W. 13 admits that the appellant was insane about a fortnight prior to the occurrence. He further states that even at the inquest it was brought to his notice that the appellant was suffering from mental disease prior to the occurrence. In his appeal to this Court, the appellant states that on his return from Tirupathi, he was afflicted with some sort of insanity and as such he was not even aware of what he was doing. According to him, he was taken to a doctor for consultation and given treatment for fifteen days. On that night, himself, his wife and the child went to bed and he was not aware of what he had done. His child got up and saw her mother dead and informed him that her mother was lying speechless in a flood of blood. It is further stated in the petition that his daughter told him that he was seen sitting at her mother's feet with a knife in his hand. He never knew anything and he pacified his child and put her to sleep. He says that some of the villagers like P.Ws. 3 and 7 put questions to him and he had no memory power at all, and he was not aware of what he had done even. Even now he is not in a lucid state of mind and he did not remember whether he had stabbed her. According to him, for the past one month, he had been mentally afflicted and he was incapable of knowing even what he was doing. The appellant says that at present he is not in a sound state of mind.
14. The question is, in this state of evidence, can it be said with some reasonable amount of certainty that the appellant has a right to invoke the benefit of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.
15. The principles of law regarding the defence of insanity in criminal law which fall within Section 84 of the India Penal Code, have been summarised by my learned brother with singular clarity and perspicacity and incisive and industrious research in the judgment in Navier Marolle, In re (1970) M.L.J. 718 : : (1970)2MLJ466 , to which I was a party. The relevant portion of the law governing this aspect of the matter is found at pages 720 and 721. It is unnecessary for me to reproduce the same. The principles of law laid down in Dahyabhai v. State of Gujarat : 1964CriLJ472 , Bihkari v. State of Uttar Pradesh : 1966CriLJ63 , and Jayasena v. Reginam (1970) 1 All E.R. , have been culled out and summarised in this judgment. In the light of these principles of law and in the nature of the evidence which has been summarised in the earlier part of our judgment, we have no doubt in our mind that the appellant by reason of unsoundness of mind, was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law. The evidence of the daughter of the appellant is of decisive importance to enable us to arrive at the conclusion that the exception provided by Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code must enure to the benefit of the appellant. We are inclined to hold at any rate that the evidence placed before the Court would raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Court as regards one or more of the ingredients of the offence including mens rea of the appellant, and therefore, we would be justified to acquit the accused on the ground that the general burden of proof resting on the prosecution was not discharged in the context of the failure on the part of the prosecution to prove the mens rea of the appellant at the time of committing the murder of his wife. The conviction and the sentence of the appellant under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code are set aside.
16. In view of our finding that the appellant committed the act while he was in a state of unsoundness of mind and incapable of knowing the nature of the act he was doing, we direct that the appellant be detained in safe custody in the Government Mental Hospital, Madras under Section 471 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Superintendent of the said institution shall report the action taken by him in the matter to the Government.