Supreme Court: Belated Claims of Juvenility and Insanity Undermine Defence’s Case

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On August 19th, a 3 Judge Bench of SC dismissed an appeal filed by Mohd. Anwar for a reappraisal of evidence. He was on trial convicted under Section 394 of the Indian Penal Code (Robbery) and Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959 by the lower courts. The Appellant had pleaded that he was a minor and mentally infirm at the time of the alleged crime.

Background

In 2001, the accused parties allegedly extorted the complainant of thirty thousand rupees, assaulted him and contemplated his murder. On 29.04.2020, the Trial Court held all three accused guilty of robbery with an attempt to cause grievous hurt and sentenced them to 7 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 397/34 of IPC, 5 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 392/34 of IPC and 2 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 25 of the Arms Act.

The High Court later dropped the charges of robbery with grievous hurt or attempt to murder against co-accused Mohd Anwar in an appeal against the impugned Judgment dated 29.04.2020. However, the High Court convicted and sentenced him under Section 394 of the IPC, 1860 and Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959. He filed an appeal in the Supreme Court who upheld the Judgment dated 22.02.2010 of the High Court of Delhi.

Arguments by the Appellant

The Counsel for the Appellant raised an argument of juvenility and insanity. The same was even raised in the High Court. They claimed that Mohd. Anwar was merely 15 years at the time of occurrence and was undergoing treatment for a mental disorder at a government hospital. A copy of an OPD card and the testimony of the appellant’s mother who stated that he was often chained at home to prevent harm to himself and others confirmed the same.

Arguments of the State

The Additional Solicitor General, on the other hand, maintained that the belated defences of juvenility and insanity were an afterthought. The High Court had already taken a lenient view by reducing the sentence from 7 to 2 years.

Court’s Observations

A Bench comprising Justices N.V. Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant dealt with the Appeal. The Bench made the following observations:

  1. Pleas of unsoundness of mind under Section 84 of IPC or mitigating circumstances like juvenility of age, ordinarily ought to be thoroughly raised during the trial itself. Belated claims not only prevent proper production and appreciation of evidence, but they also undermine the genuineness of the defence’s case.
  2. As noted by the High Court, the Appellant presented no evidence in the form of a birth certificate, school record or medical test. Further, no expert examination was sought by the Appellant. Instead, the statement recorded under Section 313 CrPC shows that the Appellant was above 18 years around the time of the incident.
  3. The plea of mental disorder too remains unsubstantiated. No deposition made by any witness, nor the Appellant himself claim any such impairment during his Section 313 CrPC statement shrouds the defence in ambiguity.
  4. To successfully claim defence of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the Accused must show by a preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong. Further, it must be profoundly established that the accused was afflicted by such disability, particularly at the time of the crime and that but for such impairment, the crime would not have been so committed.

Court’s Decision

The Bench held that the Appellant was unable to establish juvenility or insanity and dismissed the Appeal. Further, the Court directed the State to take the Appellant into custody to serve the remainder of his sentence.


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